They say the world looks brighter from behind the smile and according to the American Association of Cosmetic Dentists, an estimated 10 million Americans will spend $1.7 billion making their smiles brighter by bleaching or whitening their teeth this year. Dr Doyle Williams of the DentaQuest Foundation is here with us today with what you need to know before you bleach or whiten your teeth.
Why are we all so obsessed? I think there was an expression for awhile “the bleachaholics”. The people who are whitening their teeth too much.
“That’s a great question, I think it all started with extreme makeover and reality tv. Everybody saw you could have whiter teeth in what looked like minutes or hours and we just became obsessed with it”
There are so many over the counter products now that you can just buy and use at home. Are they just as effective as what you can get when you go to your dentist?
“They’re getting just as good, they’re just not as quick. So for example, if you go into the dental office you might be able to have white teeth in one hour. But the take home products might take a little bit longer. Some of them are working just as quick. Up to 3 or 4 days, or even up to 3 or 4 weeks.
So the products in front of us. For example, the mouthwash and the teeth whitening gum. Are they intended for maintenance?
“Exactly, some these these products just say whitening on them and they’re more just for maintaining your current shade or to help you to maintain the whiteness after you’ve bleached your teeth.”
What is the difference between bleaching or whitening your teeth? Is there a difference?
“There certainly is. The FDA describes whitening as just taking off the stains from the outside of the teeth. So restoring it to its natural colour. And that can be done with just brushing your teeth or going to the dentist and having them cleaned. When it comes to bleaching, we’d refer it to using hydrogen peroxide because it’s going to lighten your teeth above its ability to be naturally white.”
Are all teeth created equal when it comes to whitening, or should some people stay away from it because its not going to work for them?
“Definitely, they’re not created equal. Yellow and brown stains tend to whiten and brighten very well. Grey stains are a little harder to cover up because they’ve got some dark pigmentation in them. It may take some power bleaching to do that and as we get older the enamel on our teeth get thinner. And it’s very hard to whiten teeth with thin enamel”
What’s the difference between teeth discolouration and teeth staining?
“So staining is like something on the outside. Like if we’re smokers, coffee or tea drinkers, or wine… Those are the things that stain your teeth and can be easily scraped off. Where discolouration is the inside of the tooth. The natural colour. And that can influenced by things like; what we eat, or the minerals in our water.”
Lets talk about some of the bleaching or whitening products we have here. And as we mentioned how do some of these traditional toothpaste whitening products actually hold up when it comes to whitening your teeth?
“That’s a great question. So these toothpaste with whitening has minimal benefit. But they can whiten to what could appear to be 1 or 2 shades, just by removing all the stains from the outside of the teeth.”
So just by brushing your teeth all the time – if you’ve had any bleaching or whitening done will that help you maintain that look?
“Yes exactly, it’s a terrific way to maintain the whitening effect after bleaching”
What about the non-traditional whitening products? As we mentioned the mouthwash, the gum, the floss. Do they really help too? Or is that just the same?
“Well once again these products right here are going to help maintain. Mainly people ask me about the gum – what in the world could gum really do? Well, It stimulates saliva flow and saliva’s the natural cleanser of the mouth. So yes it does help.”
What other alternate products out there for really getting that glowing smile?
“Here are the products that really do the bleaching. Your gels, your trays, and your whitening strips. Those kind of things. And they have a hydrogen peroxide in them, which is a bleaching agent. All at different concentrations – depending on the product. The lower the concentration, the longer it takes to bleach, the higher the faster – but the higher risk or sensitivity.”
Now, what about when you go to the dentists office and you see the light technique that they use . The blue light. Does that work? I mean, what is it about this technology which is different from the gels or the strips?
“Now that’s actually been introduced into a few over the counter products that has its own little blue light in it. The light emits heat, which you can’t feel, and that activates the bleach or makes it soak in. I prefer it over other whitening/bleaching products out there. Yes, you save a lot compared to getting it done at the the dentist”
We should mention the side effects, because I’ve done this once before and the next day I could hardly eat a thing. It hurt just having the wind hit my teeth.
“When you go to the dentist they typically give you a very high concentration of hydrogen peroxide. Mainly to get the procedure done in only one or two sessions. And sensitivity is the number one side effect when it comes to bleaching your teeth”
That goes away with time though right?
“It certainly does. As your teeth remineralise they get better and the sensitivity goes away. The second side effect is you can actually burn your gums. And we’ve got these bleachaholics, who use a lot of bleach, and do it all the time, and they spill it over onto their gums where it can do some damage. The important thing is you really have to follow manufacturers directions.”
What about the enamel of your teeth? Does it do anything to that? I heard people can get cavities more over time. Is that true?
“It shouldn’t be. So the enamel on your tooth is what’s actually being bleached. It’s almost like frosting a piece of glass. But nature will take care of it and it will remineralise. And that’s why the whiteness tends to go away after a few months to a year – depending on how well you maintain it. It’s because your teeth are getting clearer again.”
Dr Doyle Williams thanks so much. Great to have you with us today.
“Yes it’s all about maintenance. But also doing it safely and correctly. The pleasure is all mine.”
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