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Many patients ask if teeth whitening is safe. The short answer is yes. Every time you eat oar drink, the leftover residue accumulates to form a pellicle film on your teeth. This scummy film sits on your teeth and, despite your best efforts at brushing, over time, it seeps into the porous enamel of your teeth and creates deep stains that you simply can’t scrape away with your toothbrush.
An estimated 10 million Americans depend on whitening products to rescue them from yellow-stained smiles. Whiteners work by using bleaching agents such as carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, which are able to soak deep into the enamel layers to oxidize, or break apart, the staining compounds. The result – a brighter, whiter smile.
All over-the-counter whitening gels contain no more than 10% peroxide and bear the ADA’s seal. Clinical studies continue to prove that this active ingredient ratio does not cause any damage to the enamel, which is why these products are sold at drug stores, grocery markets, and at cosmetic counters. The prices range from $15 to $75 and the product may be used daily for several days or even 2 to 3 weeks. Results vary depending on the amount of staining you start off with, and the duration of time you use the product. The only side effects experienced are sensitivity in the teeth after use, and occasional irritation of the gums.
The other route is to have a professional whitening treatment completed by your dentist. These treatments use a higher percentage of active ingredient in the whitening gel, so the results are often more drastic than the over-the-counter products can offer. The cost is higher, and there is still the risk of sensitivity in the teeth. The good news is, results are instant and there’s nothing special you have to do at home to achieve a whiter smile. While these in-office treatments are safe for patients, extra steps must be taken to protect your enamel when these high powered gels are used. We administer high-strength fluoride to help protect the enamel layers of the teeth. This also helps to reduce sensitivity. Results can be drastic – many patients see an improvement of 6 to 8 shades whiter!
With all attempts at whitening, small steps you take can help you get great results, and make your results last. Simply brushing after every meal – including lunch – will help your teeth stay whiter. Brushing with a non-abrassive whitening toothpaste helps. And, if you can’t brush, try chewing sugarless gum. Chewing helps generate more saliva and this saliva will wash away tiny food particle which would otherwise soak in and cause stains to your teeth. Not as good as brushing, but it helps. Another consideration is to avoid seriously staining foods and drinks while you are whitening your teeth. Try to steer clear of coffee, tea, soda, red wine, dark colored sports drinks, even soy sauce and ketchup. If it will cause a stain on your white t-shirt, it will stain your teeth. So, if you are whitening at home with an over-the-counter product, or using trays your dentist made custom for you, or even when doing an in-office instant whitening treatment, stay away from these staining agents to get the most bang for your buck. When you do go back to drinking your morning coffee and evening red wine, just brush after.
Complementary consultations are always available in our office to help you chose the whitening product that is best for you. Just call.