Bright Smiles for the Holidays: The Ins and Outs of Teeth Whitening

Yellow or stained teeth can be a source of self-consciousness for many. Since we’re constantly bombarded with images of celebrities and their Hollywood-perfect smiles, it’s no surprise that teeth whitening treatments have become more popular – and easy to access. The trouble is finding which ones you can trust with your teeth. While some trendy treatments might seem to produce brilliant results, they can be very bad for your teeth or your general health in the long run. Once you understand how teeth whitening works, the key is finding a dental expert that you trust to give you a perfect smile.

What Causes Yellow Teeth?

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. While teeth whitening is a great way to return your smile to dazzling brightness, it’s worth understanding how teeth become discoloured in the first place. Knowing the type of staining will help determine which of the teeth whitening options is for you. Perhaps the best-known culprit is food staining – starting with your daily cup of tea or coffee.

These drinks contain tannins, which break down inside your mouth, leaving behind colour compounds that stick to your teeth. Tannins are also present in wines, and many other foods also contain elements that can cause unsightly staining. This doesn’t mean these foods are off the menu, but it pays to moderate consumption and clean your teeth soon afterwards.

The next most common cause of teeth discolouration is smoking. Tar and nicotine both stain your teeth, in addition to causing more serious dental problems. Tobacco also wears away at your enamel over time, exposing more of the dentin layer below. Not only does this make your teeth look more yellow, but it also makes them more vulnerable to damage.

It’s important to note that yellowing teeth are not necessarily unhealthy teeth. Although it might not be as aesthetically pleasing as our childhood pearly whites, the natural colour of our teeth changes as we get older. Just how much this will affect the appearance of your teeth is determined mainly by genetics.

Some medications, like antibiotics, and illnesses can also cause this from-the-inside-out discolouration. If your teeth have noticeably changed colour over a short period, it may be a sign of something more serious, and you should speak to your dentist.

Personal vs. Professional Teeth Whitening

There are many different types of teeth whitening available, from whitening toothpaste to dentist-administered treatments. They are usually divided into do-it-yourself “over-the-counter” teeth whitening and “professional” teeth whitening. When you’re deciding how to whiten your teeth, it might seem cheaper and easier to go for the over-the-counter solution you find at your local pharmacy. However, depending on the type of staining you have and which product you use, you could end up wasting more of your money and time and potentially causing harm.

While effectiveness varies among the over-the-counter varieties, there are times when the simplest solution is also the best. If you have mild staining from external causes, like food or smoking, then you may find success with store-bought whitening products. Always choose a reputable brand to avoid a product that either isn’t strong enough or contains too much of the bleaching agent. With many tooth-bleaching kits, the mouth guard or strips provided are a standard size, which may not fit your mouth properly. This means some bleaching gel could leak or be incorrectly applied, causing gum sensitivity and even blistering in your mouth.

A teeth whitening treatment done by an oral hygienist or dentist will not only be safer but also produce more dependable results. While over-the-counter solutions might make your teeth brighter and whiter for a single special event, professional teeth whitening can last up to three years, depending on the type of treatment and your overall oral health. There are a few professional teeth whitening options that you can choose to suit your oral health, lifestyle, and budget.

The Best Ways to Whiten Your Teeth

Even if you want to go the at-home teeth whitening route, it’s a good idea to discuss it with your dentist to ensure you choose the right product. For example, most dentists dismiss charcoal teeth whitening products as being ineffective and, at times, actively abrasive. Your dentist is the most familiar with your current oral health, which may impact the type of treatment that will work best for you.

When you decide to opt for teeth whitening at your dentist or oral hygienist, the next step is to investigate the types of whitening treatment that they offer. Most teeth whitening dentists offer a variety of tried-and-trusted options. Tap into your oral care provider’s experience to understand what your best options are and what each one entails. Professional teeth whitening treatments usually take one of two forms: in-chair or at-home.

In-chair teeth whitening treatments are done right in your dentist’s chair, as the name suggests. They are non-invasive and pain-free, although you may feel some sensitivity or tingling for a short while afterwards. In an hour or two, you can completely transform your smile. Some in-chair treatments, like the Philips Zoom! whitening system, use a special lamp to activate the hydrogen peroxide, making for faster and more effective stain removal. Others, like Opalescence Boost Teeth Whitening, focus on chemically-activated whitening without the need for a lamp.

At-home treatments are closer to personalised, professional versions of over-the-counter teeth whitening solutions. This takes the form of a personalised kit you use at home, giving you the ultimate combination of professional effectiveness and convenience. Your dentist will usually provide a customised mouth guard to ensure your teeth get full coverage while your gums remain protected. With the White Dental Beauty tooth whitening gels, which come in a variety of strengths to accommodate any tooth sensitivity, you’ll begin to see results after less than a week.

Can Teeth Whitening Damage Your Teeth?

Teeth whitening products contain strong chemicals, so concern about the risks is natural. The good news is that most dentist-approved products and treatments won’t cause any effects more severe than some temporary sensitivity or gum irritation. This is especially common when over-the-counter products are used, as there is more room for user error or an ill-fitting applicator.

However, it must be noted that overuse or incorrect usage of teeth whitening products can damage your enamel, which can be painful and cause permanent sensitivity. Even brushing your teeth too hard can cause damage, which will be worsened if you are using an abrasive whitening toothpaste. Most home whitening “hacks”, like vinegar or lemon juice, cause more harm than good. This is why it’s essential to speak to an expert teeth-whitening dentist before attempting to whiten your teeth, regardless of what type of product or treatment you plan to use. A qualified oral care specialist can advise you on safe and effective ways to achieve your dream smile.

It’s All About Enamel: Maintaining White Teeth

Taking care of your teeth after a whitening treatment will ensure your smile remains dazzling for years. Daily brushing and flossing are the most important tools in the oral health arsenal, and maintaining a white smile is no different. Maintaining a consistent habit of visiting your dentist for a checkup and professional cleaning every six months is the best way to achieve and keep your teeth looking their best.

When you’re searching for a teeth-whitening dentist in Cape Town, look no further than our experienced team of smile design specialists at Enamel Clinic. Our registered dental clinic offers three different teeth whitening treatment options, and we’ll guide you through the personalised process from start to pearly-white finish. You can even choose the shade of whiteness you’d like to achieve! With everyone’s preparations for the December holidays, we’ll help you fit in a smile upgrade in just one quick visit. Schedule a consultation with us today.