Teeth whitening is by far the #1 cosmetic dentistry procedure (estimates say it is around 100 million per year in USA alone) performed every day around the globe. There are many reasons for teeth whitening being so popular. A major reason is our desire to look more youthful. Teeth whitening can turn back the clock on your smile. The next reason and just as important is cost. Teeth whitening is one of the least expensive cosmetic dentistry procedures which allows it to be available to a wider range of patients. Teeth whitening might seem like a modern phenomena but it is not. Generations of people have been trying to brighten and whiten their smiles since the earliest days of civilization. Surprisingly, the basic ingredients used today have been around since early in the 19th century.
Earliest Teeth Whitening Attempts
The earliest attempts at teeth whitening were primitive to say the least. The earliest people on earth used sticks and thorns to attempt to clean their teeth. Civilization is what led to people wanting to look their best. Looking good with white teeth was considered a sign of wealth and possible nobility. The Roman empire and Egyptian empire were ahead of their times. The Romans used a paste for their teeth composed of goat’s milk and urine! While the Egyptians used pumice and wine vinegar. The Egyptians were heading in the right direction as vinegar can remove stains and pumice can smooth the surface. Around the 12th century, the medical doctors recommended a sage and salt rub for teeth whitening. By the 17th century, the local barber was called upon for dental advice. These barbers would offer services to use a metal file to roughen the surface of clients teeth and then paint on nitric acid. The idea is to roughen the surface so the nitric acid can stick and begin to remove staining. In the mid to late 18th century, oxalic acid was used for teeth whitening again by the medical community. I am sure by now you are horrified by these crude attempts at teeth whitening in ancient times. These techniques probably had limited success but caused maximum damage.
Modern Teeth Whitening Techniques
Luckily, dentistry has advanced and we have a better understanding of dental materials and dental techniques. There are various methods offered both in home and in the dental office. Below will be a review of the different teeth whitening methods available today to safely whiten your teeth.
–Teeth Whitening Toothpastes. Cheapest method of teeth whitening but also the least effective with very limited teeth whitening results. There are many different teeth whitening toothpastes on the market today by various different brands. They all tout great results but in reality the results are highly variable from patient to patient. For some with light staining this method may work well enough to make you happy. While others with extensive staining they will see little to no benefit. But in the end, for a few pennies more it is worth a try as we are all brushing daily anyway!
–Teeth Whitening Strips. This method is a bit more expensive than just using a teeth whitening toothpaste. These are sold over the counter at your local pharmacy or big box store. The active ingredient in teeth whitening strips is usually the same as professional teeth whitening products. However, the dosage and concentration is lowered for safety. Again these may work well for some but not so well for others. These are also harder to use as they have a bit of a learning curve with them. These teeth whitening strips must be placed evenly across all your teeth and cannot be applied to a single tooth that might need more help than the others. These have also been known to irritate the gum tissues if the placement is off or they move during use.
–Professional Teeth Whitening With Custom Fit Dental Trays. This is a personalized cosmetic dentistry procedure. Your dentist will evaluate your smile and create custom fir dental trays. These trays will be comfortable to wear but also evenly distribute teeth whitening gel across all teeth quite easily. This method also allows for isolation of just a few teeth if needed. These custom fit dental trays can be worn day or night usually for a period of 1-4 weeks. This option is flexible and provides excellent results. The only downside to this method vs the previous two is cost. This method will carry a higher cost but the results are far batter. Each patient will need to weigh the pros and cons of each method for what is best for their individual smile.
–Teeth Whitening Performed By Your Dentist. This method carries the highest cost but also gives you the fastest, most effective results of all teeth whitening methods. This method is completed 30 minutes to an hour right in your dentist’s office. A special light and teeth whitening gel is used for this procedure. The teeth whitening gel is highly concentrated and is accelerated by the special teeth whitening light. This makes this method highly effective and very efficient. The main disadvantage is this comes with a higher cost but I am sure you can understand why.
Disadvantages Of Teeth Whitening
Tooth sensitivity and gum tissue irritation can occur in any of the teeth whitening methods listed above. If either occurs it is best to contact your dentist. They will probably recommend a visit to office to discuss options or advise to cease using the teeth whitening products for a day or two to let things settle down. Gum tissue irritation and teeth sensitivity is generally reversible. Your dentist may recommend a sensitive teeth toothpaste like sensodyne or a topical gel (orajel) to relieve gum tissue irritation.
Maintenance Tips Of Teeth Whitening
Teeth whitening is highly effective but staining will occur again over time. Teeth whitening is not a one and done dental procedure. Touch ups will be needed over time. Below are some dental tips to maintain teeth whitening longer:
-Brush after every meal or at very least rinse mouth with water after eating and drinking.
-Floss to remove plaque foods trapped between the teeth
-Following teeth whitening it is important to limit staining foods and drink for about 2-3 days.
-Use a straw to drink fluids that can cause staining of your teeth.
-Lose the Habits like smoking and drinking which are known to stain our teeth
History Of Teeth Whitening Conclusion
Teeth whitening using modern dental materials has proven to safe and highly effective in whitening our smiles. The limited drawbacks can be overcome and should not hinder the desire for a whiter, more youthful smile.