One of the most common topics that I get asked about is tooth whitening. It’s a little know fact that your teeth naturally darken with age – changing approximately 1-2 shades with every decade.
There’s a lot of ideas and info out there, so to make it easy I figured I’d write a 5-minute guide to what you need to know:
Questions and fears
- Does whitening weaken my teeth?
- Is it permanent or does it wear off after a few months?
- Whitening toothpaste it might not be as good as professional whitening but it can’t hurt, right?
- I want to whiten but it’s going to be way too expensive.
My brother and sister-in-law got married this last year, and she wanted them both to get their teeth whitened before the wedding as her “one irrational request.” Like many people do, they thought that whitening was only a temporary change.Actually lightening the shade of your teeth is a relatively permanent change and is not harmful when done properly. That being said, over long periods of time staining from coffee, wine, diet, etc. along with the natural aging process of your teeth will gradually make them darker.What works and what doesn’t
WORKS: The most effective and quickest is professional whitening by a dentist. We recommend professional strength trays that you can get with an office visit. You may have heard that it’s $400+ for a dentist to do it, but in reality for most patients the cost could be closer to $125 (unless you have crowded teeth and then a custom tray will increase cost). Sensitivity is temporary.
DOESN’T: Scrubbing harder. Read my rant about this.
DOESN’T: Another thing you may have heard of is light treatment or “laser whitening.” This is a gimmick with little clinical effectiveness. The light heats and dries the teeth out, causing them to look whiter for the first 24 hours until they start to rehydrate.
WORKS: Crest White Strips actually work and they cost $25-45. They’ll take a couple of weeks of daily use before you see significant change. But they may not be as effective at getting tough stains. Sensitivity is temporary.
DOESN’T: If you looking for an over-the-counter solution, don’t waste your time with whitening toothpaste or rinses. Toothpastes that advertising “whitening” and “tartar control” will actually be abrasive, which can be damaging with long term daily use. How do you know if your tooth paste is abrasive? You can look up the RDA index of toothpaste abrasiveness and aim for 70-80 on the scale. Often toothpastes that are labeled “sensitive” are best. Colgate Total is an easy-to-find, low abrasion toothpaste.
Finally, a tip for the ladies
Here’s a great aesthetic tip I ran across in Women’s Health Magazine:
Want to make your teeth look fashionably white–without the work? “Stick with blue-based red and pink lipsticks or clothes in dark colors,” says Pia Lieb, D.D.S., a cosmetic dentist in New York City. Warm colors (yellow, orange, brown, warm shades of red) worn close to your mouth will only bring out the yellow in your teeth.