Monday, October 27, 2008

Myth Busters: The Facts About Teeth Whitening

Here at the Boston dental office, we receive lots of calls regarding teeth whitening. People have many questions . . . which concerns me because of all the procedures a dentist, periodontist, or oral surgeon can perform on you, teeth whitening is the absolute safest.

Because I firmly believe in educating people about the dentistry options available, here are the myths and the facts about teeth whitening (in no particular order).

Myth: The blue light is a laser.

Fact: The blue light is a metal halide UV light, not a laser. Dentists and those offering teeth whitening at the mall use this light to help break down the hydrogen peroxide. As it breaks down, oxygen is released into the air. The peroxide molecules then oxidize the pigmented compounds trapped in the tooth's enamel into colorless by-products -- thus producing a lighening effect on the teeth.

Myth: Professional whitening is more effective than Crest White Strips.

Fact: Both types of treatment work equally well. The benefit of having your teeth professionally whitened is two-fold: you have a dentist ensuring you're a good candidate for teeth whitening, and professional whitening is faster (45 minutes versus weeks of at-home treatments).

Myth: Teeth whitening hurts.

Fact: Gums and teeth can be very sensitive to the hydrogen peroxide. Most tooth whitening procedures increase teeth sensitivity for twenty-four hours until the teeth become remineralized by saliva. When you use OTC white strips on daily basis, however, your teeth are sensitive to the strips' 6% hydrogen peroxide for the entire month. Ouch!

Myth: You will achieve a movie star smile -- whiter than white.

Fact: Whether you have your teeth professionally whitened or use OTC strips, your teeth will never become so white that you glow like the stars in the TV show Friends. Our teeth are not naturally white -- they are either a shade of yellow, brown or gray. Coffee, wine and tea do not really darken teeth, they just create an extrinsic stain which is polished off easily. However, you still have the same color teeth. Teeth also become more yellow as we age as the enamel thins and the dentin, which is yellow, thickens.

Myth: The whitening goes away after a short period of time.

Fact: You can maintain your new smile for about 18 months. If you use OTC white strips a few nights every month, the whiteness may last a little longer. You can have your teeth whitened more than once.

Myth: Anyone can get their teeth whitened.

Fact: If your front teeth have been capped or you have crowns, teeth whitening will not work for you. A crown, which is a synthetic material, cannot be whitened. I also advise that pregnant and lactacting women hold off on getting their teeth whitened until a later date.

Myth: Only dentists can perform teeth whitening procedures.

Fact: You can now get your teeth whitened at special kiosks at the mall and even at gyms! However, the technicians who perform the procedure are not dentists -- or even medical experts, which is why the procedure often costs much less than what you would get a dental office. Teeth whitening techs are not allowed to put their fingers in your mouth and must use "trays" that you insert into your mouth yourself.

If you do have your teeth whitened outside of a dental office, make sure the tech changes gloves between each procedure, that the area is clean and well-lit, and that the company doing the whitening isn't marketing "laser whitening"


Anonymous said...

My 2 front teeth are capped. Is there anything I can use to whiten my teeth? Im about to get them recapped, can they do something about it then?

Helaine Smith, DMD said...

Yes you can use Crest White Strips. They will only whiten enamel and not porcelain.

The strips work well if you use them as recommended, and it usually takes about a month to see the results.

Thank you for asking!

Richmond Hill Dentist said...

Great post that answers many questions about teeth whitening. Teeth whitening is a great cost-effective way for a person to improve their smile. Not everyone is a good candidate and it is helpful to have a dentist to monitor and advise.