Many people are self-conscious about having dingy yellow or grayish teeth. Unfortunately, this is a common problem that can have a number of causes, including aging.
Our teeth have layers. The inner layer, which is yellowish in color, is called the dentin. The dentin is surrounded by a hard, white, outer layer called the enamel.
When you eat or drink, plaque soon begins to form on top of the enamel. Regular dental care such as brushing and flossing can help reduce this film, which can cause tooth decay if left on the teeth. A dentist can also remove the film by scraping and polishing.
Sometimes, though, plaque that remains on the teeth or around the gum line penetrates the porous surface of the enamel. This can cause oral health issues, and may also produce deep stains that require a chemical reaction to break up and remove. Surface stains, from smoking, coffee, tea, and wine, can also discolor the teeth.
You can buy teeth whitening products to use at home, or you can have your teeth whitened professionally by a dentist. If you want to whiten your teeth, it’s a good idea to talk to your dentist first to see what he or she recommends.
Maximizing the Effects of Tooth Whitening
If you go to the trouble of whitening your teeth, you’ll want to get the most bang possible for your buck. There are a few steps you can take to maximize your tooth whitening efforts.
First, if you’re doing treatments at home, don’t give up too soon. It may take several home treatments to get your teeth as white as you want them to be. Don’t exceed more than one treatment per day, though, and don’t leave the chemical agent on for more than an hour per treatment. Overuse of the chemicals used in whitening can damage your teeth.
If you are whitening your teeth at home, try to complete the treatment close to your bedtime so you aren’t tempted to eat anything afterward. This tip is important because the bleach used in whitening agents opens the pores of the enamel for up to six hours after each treatment. Anything you eat or drink during this time may increase staining–just the opposite of what you want!
Finally, see your dentist for professional whitening treatments if you’re experiencing pain or discomfort during the whitening process or if the results you get are not what you’d hoped for.
Prolonging the Effects of Tooth Whitening
Once your teeth are white and bright again, you’ll want to keep them looking that way for as long as possible. If you just go back to your old habits, your teeth will quickly get stained again, and you’ll have to repeat the process all over again. You can make a few simple diet and lifestyle changes to extend the effects of teeth whitening treatments.
First, avoid fluids and foods that are likely to stain your teeth. These include:
- Red wine
- Dark sodas
- Dark chocolate
- Tomato sauce
- Excess sugar
Be sure to eat plenty of stain-reducing foods such as cheese or crunchy vegetables and fruits such as lettuce, celery, and apples.
Next, avoid smoking. The tar and nicotine found in cigarettes are staining agents. They can make your teeth appear dingy or yellow, and they can reduce the effects of tooth whitening treatments.
If you must drink dark soda, use a straw. Position it so that the liquid doesn’t touch the outer surface of your teeth.
After you’ve undergone tooth whitening treatments, be sure to practice good dental hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, ideally after breakfast and right before you go to bed. Floss after brushing to remove particles and stains that the toothbrush can’t quite reach.
Finally, be sure to visit your dentist every six months for a check-up and a thorough cleaning.
Periodontal Disease & Tooth Whitening
Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that surround your teeth. If particles of food collect at the gum line, you may notice symptoms like:
- Bad breath that doesn’t go away after dental care
- Red, swollen, receding, painful, and/or bleeding gums
- Pain while chewing
- Loose or sensitive teeth
If you notice these symptoms while you are undergoing tooth whitening, you may want to consider consulting with a periodontist like Dr. Gallardo.
About Dr. Gallardo
Dr. John Paul Gallardo has been in practice for more than 25 years. His office is located in Miami, Florida, and his specialties include dental implants, gum disease treatments, cosmetic and oral hygiene, and oral surgery. Dr. Gallardo is one of the few periodontists in the area who is able to use intravenous conscious sedation to serve patients who are anxious about dental procedures.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Gallardo, visit his website and participate in an online chat. You can also call his office at 305.447.1447.