Is Whitening Your Smile Worth It? Here’s What You Should Know
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Maybe you have a wedding coming up, and you want your smile to match your dress. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of a brighter grin, and you finally have the funds to pursue your goal.
However, could you put your oral health at risk by doing so? After all, dental care doesn’t come cheap. Is whitening your smile worth it? Here’s what you should know before buying that box of strips.
Your Tooth’s Anatomy and What Gives It Color
Whitening your teeth isn’t the same as Tom Sawyer whitewashing a fence. You’re trying to change the color of a living part of your body. It’s a step beyond hair color and nail polish.
Your teeth have three layers:
- Enamel: This outermost layer can get surface stains that abrasive treatments like activated charcoal strive to scrub away.
- Dentin: This middle layer is primarily responsible for your tooth’s overall color. It darkens with age, becoming more visible through the enamel and inspiring some to take the whitening plunge.
- Pulp: This innermost layer contains the nerves and blood vessels. It can cause significant pain if decay reaches this level.
Methods of Whitening Your Smile
Most professionals consider whitening relatively safe — if you follow the manufacturer’s directions and avoid unapproved DIY measures. You can choose from the following approved methods if you decide to leap:
Tooth whitening strips are among the most affordable methods. You’ll pay an average of $20 to $40 for a box. You can pick them up at nearly any grocery or department store.
If choosing this method, be careful not to leave them on for longer than the recommended time. Applying whitening strips overnight won’t hasten results and could lead to spots or damage.
2. Trays and Gels
Trays and gels are available both over the counter and from your dentist. You’ll pay more for professional versions, but the tray might mold to your teeth better.
You should stick to your dentist’s recommendation if you have crowns on your teeth. These won’t lighten with treatment the way your natural teeth do. However, if you hope to match the color of a darker tooth to a whiter cap, whitening your smile might do the trick.
3. Pens and Toothpaste
Dental whitening treatments contain hydrogen peroxide as the active agent. Pens put it in an easy-to-use applicator form.
Whitening toothpaste and mouth rinses also typically contain this ingredient. Watch out for those that use abrasives to scrub your enamel. They could damage your teeth’s outer layer.
4. In-Office Treatments
In-office treatments give you the benefit of your dentist’s expert touch. They also work more quickly because your provider can apply a more highly concentrated version and use lasers to accelerate the process.
Potential Dangers of Whitening Your Smile
Even though most professionals consider this procedure safe, notice the caveat: if used as directed. Tooth whitening does have some inherent risks. Considering the high cost of dental care in America, you might want to reflect on whether catering to your vanity now will become a costly mistake down the road.
For example, one 2010 study shows that hydrogen peroxide can cause significant damage to teeth and hair if used in excess. It erodes the collagen that makes up 90% to 95% of your dentin layer.
Therefore, use caution if you opt for whitening your smile. Read the instructions and follow them — no falling asleep with films on your teeth.
Natural Ways to Protect Your Smile
You can also do a lot in your daily life to preserve a whiter, healthier smile. Try these tips to protect your teeth and appearance:
- Brush twice, floss once: You should brush your teeth twice daily, waiting about 30 minutes after meals to avoid damaging your enamel. You should make one job a complete workup with floss and a finishing rinse.
- Eat cruciferous veggies and crunchy fruits: These foods act as natural toothbrushes to scrub away unwanted particles before bacteria can feast upon them and multiply. Munch on a few carrot sticks to conclude lunch and have an apple for an after-dinner snack.
- Avoid staining foods: Red wine and coffee are notorious when it comes to discoloring your teeth.
- Quit smoking: Cigarettes can stain your teeth an ugly yellow color. Fortunately, you can find tons of free resources to help you quit. Don’t lose heart if you tried before — it takes many people several tries.
Know the Facts Before Whitening Your Smile
Is whitening your smile the right choice for you? If you want to get a brighter grin, follow the instructions to do so safely.