"How Can I Brighten My Smile?" from, http://www.webmd.com
- Do you regularly enjoy tobacco, coffee, tea, red wine, and/or soft drinks?You answered: NoTobacco, coffee, tea, red wine, colas, and orange soda all contain dark compounds that can be absorbed by the enamel on teeth over time. You can have your teeth whitened if you use these products. But the stains may return within a month or so. Consider cutting back your consumption, or quitting. Also, brush your teeth after drinking these beverages or smoking.
- Do you eat a lot of dark fruit (eg. blueberries and purple grapes), light fruit (eg. melons and peaches), chocolate, and/or cheese?You answered: YesBlueberries, chocolate, and other dark and acidic foods can superficially discolor your teeth. In fact, anything that can stain your carpet can discolor your teeth. Brushing after each meal can help prevent these stains.
Cheeses and low-acidic foods also help reduce your risk of cavities. Still, be sure to brush after eating.
- Are the stains on your teeth yellowish, brownish, and/or grayish/purplish?You answered: YesYellowish stains are the most common because teeth yellow naturally with age. Yellowish teeth are also the easiest to whiten with common peroxide-based whitening gels or strips available in drugstores. Toothpastes with whitening agents may also help lighten yellowish teeth.
Brownish teeth are more difficult to whiten than yellowish teeth, depending on the severity of your stains. Ask your dentist if your teeth would respond to strips and gels from the drugstore, or whether you need a more concentrated solution available only at the dentist's office.
Grayish or purplish teeth are the most difficult to whiten with bleaching gels and strips. Drugs such as tetracycline can cause this hue. Also, some people have naturally grayish/purplish teeth. If this color describes your teeth, ask your dentist about laser-assisted whitening techniques or about veneers, which are tooth-colored shells that cover the enamel surface of your teeth.
- Have you considered any of the following: whitening toothpastes, over-the-counter gels or strips, professional bleaching, veneers?You answered: YesWhitening toothpastes ($3 - $5) usually contain mild chemicals -- not bleach -- to help polish teeth and remove superficial stains from food or drink. At best, they can lighten your teeth one shade. Look for the American Dental Association's (ADA) Seal of Acceptance on any whitening toothpaste you buy.
Over-the-counter strips or gels ($10 to $55) use peroxide-based solutions to lighten teeth. Typically they contain 10% carbamide peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is a breakdown product of the carbamide peroxide. They can lighten teeth a few shades. The results can last several months, or a year, or longer, depending on the condition of your teeth and your habits.
Professional bleaching ($250 to $800) at the dentist's office uses a higher concentration of peroxide (15% to 35%). You have several options at the dentist's office. Your dentist may make a mouthpiece that fits your teeth and send you home with a concentrated gel. You then wear the mouthpiece filled with whitening gel at night, bathing your teeth in the bleach. Or your dentist may apply the solution in the office and speed the whitening process by using a laser or light. These procedures can be done in one office visit several hours long, or over several shorter office visits. Professional bleaching can lighten some teeth by three to eight shades, and the results can last one to five years.
- Do you have fillings, crowns, bridges, bonding, or dentures?You answered: NoFillings, crowns, bridges, bonding, and dentures do not lighten with bleaching. If you have a lot of dental work, you may end up with an uneven smile after teeth whitening.
Dental work in the front of your mouth interferes with teeth whitening the most. Ask your dentist about the cost of replacing any prominent dental work. Dental work in the back of your mouth is not as noticeable and shouldn't result in an uneven smile after teeth whitening.
- Are you pregnant or breastfeeding, have sensitive or receding gums, or allergic to peroxide?You answered: NoPregnant or breastfeeding women should wait before having their teeth whitened, advises the American Dental Association. There is little research on the effects that bleaching products may have on pregnant or breastfeeding women.
People with sensitive or receding gums should consult their dentist before whitening their teeth. Whitening agents such as peroxide normally cause some temporary discomfort in the mouth. If you have gum disease, exposed roots, or other oral problems, the peroxide may cause greater sensitivity.
People who are allergic to peroxide should not have their teeth whitened. Most gels, strips, and tray-based solutions contain peroxide. The concentrations vary, with lower levels of peroxide in products sold at the drugstore and high levels in solutions used at the dentist's office.
- Do you currently use an electric toothbrush and/or whitening toothpaste?You answered: NoElectric toothbrushes with the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval are often more effective than standard toothbrushes. With all brushes, buy ones with soft bristles. Soft bristles are more flexible, thus better at sliding under gum tissue to remove plaque. Hard bristles can damage your gums.
Whitening toothpastes with the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval have been shown in some studies to slightly lighten teeth. Toothpaste with fluoride also helps prevent cavities, which can discolor teeth. Toothpaste with any gentle abrasive such as baking soda can remove surface stains immediately after eating, but this is not as effective at preventing cavities or whitening teeth.