Many people want straight, white, and healthy teeth. However, many factors may hinder us from achieving our most beautiful smile. We eat and drink various types of foods and beverages without much consideration of the effect they have on our teeth. After all, we love our mornings filled with a hot cup of coffee, not minding that the caffeinated drink is staining our teeth.
Our lifestyle constitutes activities that do more harm than good to our oral health. We spend some time in our day smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages that discolor our teeth and lead to dry mouth. Unavoidable circumstances like aging are also taking a toll on the condition of our mouth.
Fortunately, dentistry has improved through time. Today, dentistry creates solutions to our dental problems and promises us the achievement of better smiles. Orthodontics help us have straighter teeth. Preventive care treatments like dental cleanings and checkups keep our oral health in check.
And our discolored teeth can transform to a pearly white appearance through teeth whitening. Teeth whitening allows the teeth to lighten and brighten from its current shade. But before we dwell on the solution, let’s dig into the problem — discolored teeth.
What Causes Teeth to Yellow?
Our teeth naturally stain over time. Tooth discoloration can be extrinsic, intrinsic, or age-related.
- Extrinsic stains are on the tooth surface. They often occur when residue from food or drinks builds up in a protein film, covering the enamel. Aside from food and beverages, tobacco use also contributes to extrinsic stains.
- Intrinsic stains are found underneath the tooth surface. They are acquired when stain-causing particles get into the tooth’s exterior and accumulate inside the enamel, causing the dentin to darken or gets a yellow tint. Some causes of intrinsic stains are excessive fluoride use during childhood, use of tetracycline antibiotics when young, trauma, among others.
- Age-related stains are a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic stains. As we age, the enamel gets thinner. This results in the exposure of the teeth’ core issues, which naturally turn yellow over time. This intrinsic discoloration, along with extrinsic stains due to food, can lead to noticeable tooth discoloration.
How Can I Whiten My Discolored Teeth?
You can restore your teeth’s “whiteness” through teeth whitening.
- Whitening toothpaste can help reduce discoloration, especially if it’s due to extrinsic stains. Whitening toothpaste contains carbamide peroxide or hydrogen, which are bleaching agents. The abrasives in the toothpaste are what help remove stains on the enamel.
- Whitening rinse contains similar bleaching agents that whitening toothpaste does and is used similarly to ordinary rinses.
- Made from thin, flexible, and hydrogen peroxide-infused polyethylene, the most common plastic, teeth whitening strips are lightly pressed directly onto the teeth. They’re normally worn two times a day for 30 minutes each period.
- Teeth whitening gels also have hydrogen peroxide. The gel is regularly applied to the teeth two times daily for two weeks.
- If over-the-counter measures don’t work, patients can opt for tray bleaching, which is a professional whitening kit offered by a dentist. Compared to over-the-counter whitening products, this works faster and more effectively. Tray bleaching works by applying peroxide-based gel on customized trays.
- In-office whitening is considered the quickest way to whiten teeth. The in-office whitening treatment utilizes a dental lamp to accelerate peroxide breakdown. Higher concentrations of peroxide, which can only be found in the dental office, is used in this treatment.
How Long will Results Take?
Contrary to what you may hear, it’s impossible to see your teeth whiten overnight. A professional whitening treatment takes 3-4 weeks before you see a noticeable difference. Whitening gels range somewhere between 4 days to many months. And strips might take a little while longer. Proponents of natural whitening might say that they work immediately after use. Others worry about these whitening treatments’ abrasive nature. Thus, if this is the route you choose, it might be best to use these methods sparingly. Whichever option your choose, set realistic expectations over what to expect.
What’s the Minimum Age for Teeth Whitening?
Is your child wanting to try over-the-counter teeth whitening products? Hold on. Whitening your kids’ teeth might do more harm than good. Primary teeth typically have thinner enamel shells and don’t have the compact minerals your permanent teeth have. When you whiten them, you leave them more vulnerable to oral bacterial attacks. And because teeth whitening can dry out your teeth, this can give your kid sensitive teeth. As a result, this can interfere with their proper development.
So, when can my child use teeth whitening products? Well, first, make sure that all your child’s permanent teeth have erupted. This typically occurs at 12-14 years of age. But don’t start your teens off the whitening gel just yet. At this stage, their teeth still need time to harden and gather all the minerals they need. Called enamel calcification, this usually takes two more years after the last permanent tooth emerges. In a sense, the ideal teeth whitening age is around 16 years old. One could even say it’s the very minimum age for teeth whitening.
Even if your child hits their 16th birthday, however, getting their teeth whitened probably shouldn’t be right in the cards just yet. As with all things, teeth whitening has its share of side effects. And in this case, it’s something that could interfere with healthy tooth development. In any case, getting a whitening treatment might be best once they’re adults or if their dentist says it’s okay.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Activated Charcoal Teeth Whitening
Why is there a preference for activated charcoal teeth whitening among other whitening products? We can’t say for sure, but it might have something to do with a viable natural product choice. And with health scares over potentially harmful substances and concern over rising prices, it’s no surprise.
Activated charcoal is a preferred ingredient because of activated charcoal powder’s usual use in poison treatment. When ingested, activated charcoal powder binds to the toxins, absorbing them before they could do any severe damage.
Those who swear by activated charcoal for teeth whitening purposes then argue that it works the same way. When you place the activated charcoal powder on your teeth, it supposedly removes stains by absorbing the particles that stain teeth. Aside from the unsightly activated charcoal teeth, this type of whitening might do more harm than good.
Why shouldn’t you use activated charcoal teeth whitening, then?
It doesn’t work the way you think it does
On the surface, assuming that activated charcoal teeth whitening works the same way as absorbing poison does seem like a plausible explanation. After all, that is the nature of the activated charcoal powder. However, what other people don’t mention is that it can only absorb a select number of substances. Mayo Clinic, for instance, notes the few materials activated charcoal can’t digest, such as:
- Strong acids and bases
- Petroleum products
As such, activated charcoal powder can’t absorb the tiny particles that stain teeth. We also previously noted that whitening products must get through the pores in the enamel to break down those particles that stain teeth to give your teeth that pearly white status. Activated charcoal powder, however, doesn’t have this ability.
If that’s the case, how does it work?
Charcoal Teeth Whitening Can Ruin Your Enamel
Charcoal teeth whitening removes stains the same way most natural whitening products do: abrasion. That’s right—charcoal powder doesn’t remove stains through absorption.
Sure, the activated charcoal powder can feel pretty fair to the touch, but it still has abrasive properties, which are enough to scour off any surface stains and strip down layers of tooth enamel.
For the latter reason, dentists and other dental professionals tend to sway people off activated charcoal whitening. Aside from getting a bad case of activated charcoal teeth, every time you brush with a spoonful of activated charcoal powder, you’re slowly wearing down your tooth enamel. And instead of having it remove stains, you’re one step towards compromising your oral hygiene and oral health.
That said, if the activated charcoal powder isn’t the way to go, what is? Usually, getting your teeth whitened professionally is the best way to go. And the next time you hear about the latest oral hygiene craze, it’s always best to consult your doctor.
How To Maintain Your Whitened Teeth
Avoid acidic foods and drinks: As most know, teeth whitening treatments often leave patients’ teeth sensitive and weak for a while. This is especially true when dealing with acidic foods and drinks. It is not uncommon for pain to occur after the consumption of such. For this reason, limit or avoid acidic foods and drinks for about a week or two. This includes lemonade, vinegar, alcohol, citrus fruits, and tomatoes.
Dark beverages and foods: Dark, staining drinks such as alcoholic beverages, coffee, darker juices, and black teas can stain your beautifully whitened teeth. Sodas and sports drinks are also unsafe post-teeth whitening. If you must consume these, opt for a straw to avoid as much direct contact with your teeth as possible. Additionally, avoid darker foods like cranberries, lollipops, other candies, popsicles, and other brightly- or deeply-colored foods.
Keeping away from staining foods and drinks is necessary if you want your teeth whitening treatment to last as long as possible.
High sugar: As much as most of us love sugar, avoiding overly sweet foods is vital. This is because the teeth are still struggling with sensitivity after teeth-whitening treatment. Keeping a diet filled with non-sugary foods is always critical for healthy teeth. However, things should always be eaten in moderation, especially for sensitive teeth after whitening their pearly whites.
In conclusion, teeth whitening is an excellent dental procedure for those wanting brighter and whiter teeth. However, it is crucial to follow simple guidelines after the treatment to ensure your sensitive teeth are best cared for and beautiful for months to come.
Following the procedure, what you eat and drink is essential. This is especially during the first few weeks after treatment. Shortly afterward, one may resume their regular diet as sensitivity will most likely reduce or be gone. Some, though, continue avoiding staining foods and drinks until their teeth whitening starts to wear off.
It is up to you to decide if the health of your teeth is important enough to avoid certain types of foods and drinks temporarily.