Yellowed teeth often keep people from smiling or laughing in public, but a little intervention with some cosmetic dentistry is all it takes to get the teeth sparkling a little brighter. While a dental professional will have access to high-grade teeth whiteners, it is possible to work on whitening teeth at home using over-the-counter methods and good oral hygiene techniques.
Types of tooth staining and treatment options
The first step toward whiter teeth is understanding stains. The teeth tend to discolor over time for many reasons, including age and exposure to different chemicals in foods and drinks. Different types of stains may require different cosmetic dentistry services to effectively brighten a smile. There are two main types of tooth stains.
Extrinsic stains are those that are on the outside of the tooth. These stains are caused by foods with high pigmentation. In addition, dark sodas, tea and coffee, as well as the use of tobacco, increase the risk of extrinsic tooth discoloration. It is possible to combat this type of stain with over-the-counter whitening options such as strips or a good whitening toothpaste.
Intrinsic staining occurs under the tooth enamel. As a person ages, the enamel slowly thins, and the teeth may look yellower over time because the dentin under the enamel is yellower in color. However, this can also occur with the long-term use of certain medications, particularly antibiotics. Intrinsic stains seem to respond best to cosmetic dentistry services such as bleaching.
Whitening options that work
For the best results at brightening those pearly whites a few shades, try these options:
- Dental office visits: Dentists have access to professional-grade whitening solutions. Many of these involve using trays with bleaching agents on the teeth during a visit. Some dentists also offer take-home treatments. Results are usually immediately noticeable.
- Whitening strips: Whitening strips are available over-the-counter at many stores. Typically, the strips need to be used one or two times a day, for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, for one or two weeks.
- Whitening gels: Whitening gels usually are applied to the teeth with a brush and are available over-the-counter at many stores. Like strips, the gel may need to be applied one to two times a day for a week or so.
About natural remedies
There are a lot of natural remedies and tips abounding online that urge people to use citrus fruits or substances such as charcoal to whiten their teeth. While doing so occasionally will not hurt, it is important to keep in mind that there are no studies to back up the claims that people make about these home remedies. In fact, the American Dental Association recommends sticking with the tried-and-true methods of whitening teeth for people who want to see real results. Keep in mind that brushing too hard or too often with acidic fruits, baking soda or charcoal could actually end up damaging the tooth enamel.
Teeth tend to naturally yellow over time, but you can get a brighter smile with a little cosmetic dentistry. For the fastest results, see a dental professional. However, certain over-the-counter options can also be effective.
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