After years of coffee and tea drinking, eating dark fruits (blueberries, blackberries), indulging in a glass of red wine or two, your teeth just aren’t as sparkling white as they used to be. Darkened teeth can affect your social life and your self-esteem if you let it.
Age has a definite impact on your tooth color. As you get older, wear and tear along with food staining can cause your teeth to become darker. As a result, making your teeth white again becomes harder to achieve as you age. As you get older, the inborn tooth color you have starts to show through, ranging from a yellow-brownish to a greenish–gray. The wear of enamel can also cause the appearance of darkening, though the tooth is actually becoming transparent. Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do about the appearance of a transparent tooth.
What can cause staining?* Food consumption is the biggest culprit, especially if you consume red wine, tea, cola, coffee, carrots, oranges, and other dark covered beverages and foods habitually. Through tobacco use, nicotine leaves brownish deposits on your teeth which slowly sink into the tooth and leave discoloration. Tetracycline usage produces dark grey or brown ribbon stains across teeth which are especially difficult to remove. Cracks that form in your teeth from grinding or some other type of trauma collect food and cause even darker stains.
With all of the teeth staining agents out there, bringing your chompers to a pearly white may seem like an impossible task. However, you can combat stains every day. All toothpastes have mild abrasives to help wear away the surface stains you acquire. Whitening toothpastes take that one step further by adding gentle polishing or chemical agents to combat the more stubborn surface stains. The only problem with whitening toothpastes is that they ONLY help remove the surface stains- any deeper stains stay untouched and require tougher methods.**
Since whitening toothpaste can take time, some folks tend to gravitate towards over the counter whitening strips and gels. Whitening gels tend to be clear and peroxide based. You use a small brush to apply the gel directly to the surface of your teeth. Normally you have to apply the gel twice a day for up to 14 days, though you’ll often see results within a few days. Effects from whitening gels can last up to four months. If you don’t like applying the gel yourself, whitening strips are thin, almost translucent strips that are coated with a peroxide based whitening gel. You often have to fold the strips over your teeth twice daily for 30 minutes periods. This method also takes about 14 days to complete and results last up to four months.
Whitening rinses are relatively new on the market, but rising in popularity. They function like most mouthwashes by combating bad breath, plague, and gum disease but also have ingredients like hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth. Rinses are super easy to use. All you have to do is swish them around in your mouth for 60 seconds, spit out the rinse, then brush your teeth. However, rinses take a long time to work though- many manufacturers say it can take up to 12 weeks to see results. It’s also generally believed that rinses aren’t as effective since they don’t spend nearly the same amount of time on your teeth as other over the counter methods.
Some of the more effective (but also more expensive) teeth whitening systems are tray based. You can purchase these trays over the counter or from your dentist and you have to use a mouth guard tray to apply the product. You fill the mouth guard with a gel whitening solution and wear the tray for some time, normally a couple of hours a day every day. Often the best time to wear the tray is while you sleep. This method is often employed for up to four weeks, but can be used longer depending on the amount of tooth discoloration.
If you don’t have the patience to deal with these methods above that take weeks to work, you can go to get in office bleaching from a professional. Often results are immediate (one 30 to 60 minute treatment) when you get in office bleaching. The whitening products professionals are usually used in combination with heat, some sort of special light, and/or a laser of some sort. Dramatic results normally take several treatments though. An example of in office treatments would be those of Zoom!*** At the appointment, the technician uses a special guard to protect your lips and gums then applies the Zoom! whitening gel directly to your teeth. A special light is hovered right above your mouth, activating the gel and helping to remove stubborn stains. The treatment is done in three 15 minute periods while you relax.
Whitening your teeth is easily done and can be relatively cheap to do, depending on the method. Remember though, the less money you spend, the less effective the treatment.