December 2018 – Dreaming of a White Christmas? 

Teeth whitening myths and facts

Teeth whitening is a popular cosmetic dental procedure.  With all the myths and misinformation about teeth whitening (and the different products available), there are several things to talk to Dr Goodwin about before you begin!

Teeth Whitening: Why You Should Talk to Your Dentist

As with all health issues, prevention is always preferable to treatment. You can prevent tooth discoloration and staining by regularly brushing and flossing, avoiding smoking, limiting consumption of foods and beverages that stain teeth (such as mustard, berries, tea, coffee, and wine), and getting regular professional cleanings.

Teeth whitening is effective for natural teeth only.  This means that fillings, crowns, and bridges (anything that is not the natural tooth) will not bleach.  If you are considering implants or veneers, consider having your teeth whitened first, as you won’t be able to address change the color of the crowns or veneers once they are in place.

Teeth whitening can make teeth temporarily sensitive, or be uncomfortable for people who already have sensitive teeth. Many nonprofessional home whitening kits can lead to increased tooth sensitivity and/or burned gums.

There are two types of teeth whitening:  at home and in-office bleaching: 

At home bleaching can take several weeks to obtain bleaching effects.  The time depends on several variables: consistency (done daily vs done once a week), time (how much time the bleach in on the teeth every day), staining between bleaching (the consumption of foods and beverages that darken the teeth between bleaching sessions), and underlying staining (how stained or how dark the teeth are to begin with).

In-office bleaching reduces the time of bleaching from several weeks to one hour, however there is the potential to have increased teeth sensitivity for the first 24 hours after the bleaching sessions. 

There are many products available that promise white teeth.  It is important to review the ingredients.  Some are simply white paint and others contain bleaching agents in low strengths. However, a dentist is the only individual that can prescribe prescription strength bleaching agents.    

To be sure teeth-whitening is worth your time and money, talk to Dr. Goodwin before you use any over-the-counter tooth whitening kit or whitening toothpastes.

Myths and Facts about teeth whitening:

1. Teeth Whitening is for Everyone!- Myth!

Facts:  Tooth-whitening works best for people with yellow teeth and is less effective for people with brown teeth. Individuals that have discolorations due to medications (Tetracycline) will have difficulty achieving white teeth.  If your teeth are gray or purple, tooth bleaching may not work at all.

Crowns, bridges, veneers, and fillings (tooth colored or metal) can’t be whitened, and the only way to address staining or discoloration is to have the tooth/crown/bridge/filling replaced.

2. Teeth Whitening is Permanent- Myth!

Facts:  Your teeth are like sponges…they absorb.

Your teeth have pores just like your skin or a sponge. Anything you put in your mouth that has color will absorb into those pores. Typically, anything that would stain a white T-shirt will stain your teeth.  Wine, sodas (light and dark colored), sports drinks, coffee, tea, dark berries, sauces (soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, foods with dyes, and smoking are extremely active in staining teeth. Over time, the natural color of your teeth becomes darker due to these stains. These stains will never go away unless you actively remove them with prescription strength bleaching products that are prescribed by Dr. Goodwin. 

While it is true that teeth whitening offers long-term benefits, the aging process and staining from beverages and foods can still cause your teeth to yellow over time. Fortunately, Dr. Goodwin can assist you in addressing this through whitening touchups.

3.  Whitening Toothpastes, Rinses, and Whitening Strips are Effective-Myth!

Facts:  Many companies sell so-called whitening toothpastes, gels, rinses, and strips often at a higher price than standard products: Don’t waste your money on them. The chemicals needed to whiten teeth effectively must remain in contact with the tooth for an extended period of time. Since most people brush and rinse their teeth in a matter of minutes, any whitening ingredient in the toothpaste simply won’t get the chance to start working.

Many whitening toothpastes that are “specially ordered” have the same ingredients as white paint!  These toothpastes make the teeth appear whiter by using a layer of paint on the teeth.  The paint wears off and the teeth appear as they did before the use of the “whitening toothpaste”.

4. Drugstore/Grocery Store Whitening Products are the Same as Professional Whitening Solutions-Myth!

Facts:  The strength of the whitening gel used in professional dentist offices are stronger than that which is available in an at-home whitening kit. These can only be prescribed by a dentist.  Our office also provides a prescription strength desensitizing gel to reduce sensitivity. 

In addition, our office has significant experience in preparing custom whitening trays that fit your teeth perfectly. A custom tray can help ensure that your whitening treatment gives you the results you desire.  Boil and bite trays do not have the perfect fit for optimal treatment.

5.  Hydrogen Peroxide, Baking Soda, Activated Charcoal are Safe DIY Teeth Whitening Solutions-Myth!

Facts:  Hydrogen peroxide, activated charcoal, and baking soda do not make good whitening treatments.  Hydrogen peroxide can cause tissue damage to lips, cheeks, tongue and gums (burns and erosions). 

Activated charcoal is an abrasive.  This means that is scraped the surfaces of the teeth and gums.  The abrasion can destroy or wear away the outer layer of your teeth (the enamel), resulting in the need for additional dental treatments later. 

Baking soda can disturb the balance of good to bad bacteria in your mouth, possibly triggering oral health infections or problems. It is also an abrasive, similar to activated charcoal.

6. Coconut Oil Whitens Teeth-Myth!

Facts:  Many people use coconut oil in cooking, smoothies, and as a moisturizer for hair, face, and body. In fact, coconut oil sales topped $239 million in 2015, in part due to health claims made about the oil. One such claim is that swishing coconut oil around in your mouth, a holistic health treatment known as “oil pulling” can whiten teeth.  Despite the hype, however, there is no scientific evidence to support that coconut oil can whiten teeth.

7.  Lemons and Strawberries Help Make Teeth Whiter- Myth!

Facts:  Some people use crushed strawberries or lemon juice to whiten their teeth. The problem with this method is that it may seem effective at first, but over time the acid in these fruits will eat away at your enamel. This damages the teeth and can result in your needing additional dental treatment later.

8.  Children should whiten their teeth if they are yellow- Myth!

Fact: Children should be at least 12 years of age to have their teeth whitened

It is an unfortunate fact that some children have stained or discolored teeth. There are any number of causes for this condition, including poor oral hygiene as well as the use of certain medications. In general, it is best to delay tooth whitening as the process may have a negative impact on a child’s developing teeth. Dr. Goodwin or a pediatric dentist can discuss your concerns with you and offer a realistic timeline for treatment.

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