Sparkle & Shine: Demystifying teeth whitening

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Our teeth and smiles are rated one of our most attractive features, and over the past few years the UK has followed American trends in cosmetic treatments to achieve that perfect ‘Hollywood smile’.

Taking pictures is a big part of modern society, from selfies to red carpet photos. People love sharing lifestyle photos, and post anything from new fashion finds to travel destinations. However, the rise of filters and various solutions to whiten the teeth on the photo clearly indicates that most of us don’t really like the shade of the smile we have. However, in the UK we are still not that into whitening. Only 3% of people in the UK have had teeth-whitening work - lagging behind 14% of people in the US, according to BBC News.

What causes yellowing?

There are two main reasons that teeth start to yellow - extrinsic and intrinsic. The former is when the outer layer of your tooth (the enamel) is stained by drinking coffee, wine and cola, or smoking. This can also accelerate enamel erosion and cause sensitivity, as well as yellowing.

“Intrinsic yellowing is when the inner structure of the tooth (the dentin) darkens or gets a yellow tint,” explains Dr. Annie. “This can be caused by too much exposure to fluoride as a child, if you had tetracycline antibiotics under the age of 8, or if you had trauma to the affected tooth.”

It goes without saying that, as we age, our teeth begin to yellow due to the combination of extrinsic and intrinsic yellowing taking hold and becoming more visible.

Good oral hygiene is a key to whiter teeth

First and foremost, good dental hygiene is a solid way to prevent your teeth from going yellow. The build-up of plaque can give your teeth a yellow tinge, so brushing, flossing and using mouthwash should be your best friends.

Dr Annie says: “I recommend that you make dental cleaning (we call it hygiene appointments) a part of your lifestyle, and visit us at least twice a year. Regular dental cleanings prevent calculus building up and the gum disease that is associated with it. Some clients may need more visits, based on the health state of their teeth and gums.”

Refine your diet and lifestyle

Apart from the build-up of plaque, the staining or wearing away of your enamel - the outermost layer of your teeth - can also cause discolouring. If you are committed to leading a life of purity, then there are lots of things to avoid to protect your teeth from staining. These range from coffee and red wine to fizzy drinks and processed sugary foods. Smoking is obviously is a big no-no too.

Ensure that you increase the amount of water you drink, as it helps to wash away stains and contains mineral fluoride - helping make teeth more resilient to acid erosion and decay.

Diet, which includes “natural teeth cleaners” with rough edges such as raw carrots, celery, and apple, will also help to keep your teeth cleaner and remove unhealthy bacteria from the teeth.

Cosmetic teeth whitening

The plethora of whitening products on the market today is endless - from home whitening (such as whitening strips and charcoal toothpastes) to in-clinic whitening.

However, it is important to keep in mind that the law (EEC guidelines) states no home teeth whitening kit must contain more than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide, as too much abrasion can destroy your tooth’s enamel. In-clinic options provide you with more concentrated and powerful whitening solutions but they must be supervised by the dental professional, according to The British Dental Association.

At American Smile we offer the most innovative solutions to help you achieve the smile you desire

The quickest method of tooth whitening we offer is the Philips Zoom! in-surgery whitening. It’s an instant solution for whitening teeth. By activating Zoom! chemicals with a light in our surgery, we can help you to achieve a whiter smile in roughly an hour.

Home whitening may take longer to produce results, but it is also very effective. If you opt for an at-home treatment, we will take an impression of your teeth to make a mouthguard and will instruct you on how to use it with a treatment gel. Then, using your mouthguard at home, you regularly apply the gel for a specified period of time over 14 to 20 applications. We tailor the treatment to suit your individual preferences and needs and have different gels that can be used overnight or for an hour during the day.

Zoom! whitening is fast and effective, but it isn’t as long-lasting as other treatments so we usually provide you with a combination of in-surgery and take-home whitening for the best possible results.

Veneers are also an option if your teeth aren’t naturally as white as you want. These are thin ceramic shells that cover the outer surfaces of the teeth. The treatment is popular with A-list celebrities as they offer a brighter finish and can be restored quite easily if they’re damaged or stained.

The risks of off-the-shelf or online-bought home whitening kits

From toothpastes to over-the-counter whitening gels and questionable beauty salon treatments, to online purchases - knowing the safest way to whiten your teeth can be difficult. You should consider, first and foremost, the health and condition of your tooth enamel.

Some home kits that are not provided by dentists don't contain enough of the whitening product to be effective. If a dental professional is not doing the whitening, the mouthguard provided may not fit properly so some of the bleaching gel may leak out onto your gums and into your mouth. This may cause blistering and sensitivity, and if swallowed can cause more problems.

If you opt for teeth whitening carried out in beauty salons by staff without any training or dental qualifications, you could be at risk too. This practice is actually illegal and these procedures can carry significant risks to your oral health.