The start of a shiny, brand new year, just waiting to be filled with wonderful memories, fresh starts, new beginnings and new goals also seems like a great time to think about creating your fresh, brand new smile. Since we can’t all be Hollywood starlets and have our teeth capped, lasered or polished regularly, today we will revisit the always popular topic of teeth whitening and explore opportunities for just about anyone to achieve whiter, brighter teeth.
First and foremost, as a dentist and as I stated in an earlier blog, I’m concerned about my patients overall health, not just the health of their teeth. For this reason, I always recommend patients consult with their dentist first before embarking on ANY new dental regime, whether for purely cosmetic reasons or out of necessity. Sometimes, tooth discoloration is a sign of a more serious health issue or, in choosing to whiten teeth, your already sensitive teeth may become more so. Therefore, a chat with your dentist is always a good idea. With that said, if you’ve made the decision to go ahead and have already consulted with your family dentist, here are some other key considerations:
- What is your budget?
- What level of whitening do you hope to achieve?
- When should you undertake tooth whitening?
- Do you have any allergies or sensitivities?
- What can you expect after tooth whitening?
If you’re like most of us you probably don’t have the big Hollywood budget to spend on something “nice to have” vs. “a necessity.” So where should you go for teeth whitening? Over the counter products vary from bleaching kits and various tapes you can apply yourself to dental molds made by your dentist that you fill with a whitening solution. There are even mouthwashes that claim to augment the benefits of other products you use. Your choice will depend in part upon your comfort level and on your commitment level. Bleaching and surface whiteners are the two types of products available over the counter. A surface whitener might involve you placing an adhesive type tape over your teeth and leaving it there for a period of time, sometimes even overnight. Are you comfortable doing this or would you find it cumbersome? There will be a “taste” associated with any of these products and depending upon the length of time you are required to keep them in your mouth this too will be an important consideration. If you start something but can’t finish it due to an unpleasant feeling or taste – it won’t be successful. Bleaches are peroxide based and while stronger, again there may be some unpleasantness associated with their use. Dental molds are made by your dentist and are for long-term use. These will involve an appointment to have the mold made, a quick but for some people slightly uncomfortable procedure. Their commitment level is more intensive since you would have to fill the trays with the whitening product and place them over your teeth for a specified length of time each day. Do you have the patience for this type of procedure? It works, and works well but again, your commitment level will affect the results. Typically the budget increases for each type of whitening option mentioned. Over the counter products are less expensive, molds a step up from their cost and laser treatment too would result in an even bigger investment.
I might be dating myself here but if you’re old enough to remember the TV series “Friends” you probably also remember the episode where Ross whitens his teeth to the point where they glow in the dark. He becomes a “Beacon” in the New York City night, shining as bright as Lady Liberty! That’s probably not the look you are going for. How white is too white for you? If it’s a dramatic change you seek, it’s probably best you meet with your dental team and have whitening done in the office. A controlled environment that can safely monitor the level of whiteness sought is your best bet overall.
As with any cosmetic procedure you should be in good overall health when you start the process. Even the common cold will affect success since it impacts not only how you feel but also, any over the counter meds you take may impact the ability of the whitening product to work effectively. Finally, if choosing over the counter options you absolutely must be clear that you have read all the directions and ingredients carefully and/or discussed them with your dentist, in order to ensure no allergic reaction is experienced.
What can you expect after teeth whitening? Well, whether at the dentist or not, most patients experience tends to be positive. Your teeth will lighten a few shades depending on the treatment option you choose. What you might not expect however, is the degree to which they lighten. Some people start out on the road to whiter teeth fully expecting to have the “Ross” look and are disappointed when they do not see such dramatic change. It is important therefore to make sure you’re expectations are realistic. Whether over the counter or through your dentist office will also be a factor in the degree of whiteness achieved. If you have an important event in your life, like a wedding, you may well choose to undergo a dental office treatment but if you are just looking to freshen up your look for 2015, over the counter treatments might be good enough. When you have factored all of these considerations into your decision – good luck and don’t forget to SMILE!