Teeth whitening products have become all the rage in the Canadian marketplace, with companies in all kinds of markets trying to get in on the opportunity. The truth is, there is a lot of market opportunity! Think about the toothpaste isle at your favourite drug store – there are so many whitening products on display that it can be hard to know where to start. Whitening toothpastes, whitening mouth rinses, and when you get to the checkout isle … whitening chewing gum. What’s clear is that we care about how our teeth look, but what may not be as clear is just why our teeth are discoloured in the first place and how to prevent it.
What Causes Our Teeth to Discolour?
Most of us understand that one of the primary effects of habits such as tobacco smoking is staining of the teeth. When particulate matter enters our mouths in the form of smoke, tar can accumulate on the tooth’s surface causing brown or yellow staining. But did you know that there are many other factors that contribute to the discolouration of our pearly whites?
First, it is important to know that it is normal for teeth to change colour as we age. This is due to the cumulative effects of our lifestyle and diet as well as the thinning of enamel over time. Since enamel is more transparent than the dentin that it covers, the darker dentin can begin to show more over time. This is particularly true for men since males tend to have a larger surface area (bigger teeth) than their female counterparts.
Another factor in the shade of our teeth is our diet. While fruits, vegetables and whole foods are unlikely to have a staining effect on the surface of the teeth, coffee, tea, sodas and red wine are another story altogether. We call these beverages ‘stainers’ because of their heightened ability to cause staining of the teeth over time. Since these beverages are thin liquids, it can be hard to control their interaction with our teeth unless we use a straw. In most cases, these liquids have access to all tooth surfaces, top, around and in between. Since coffee, tea, carbonation and red wine are highly acidic, they attack the surface of the teeth. While the acid attack is bad enough, they are also highly coloured – making it easier for them to stain the teeth. Think of a mug that has been discoloured due to tea – even the dishwasher has a difficult time removing those stains, so your toothbrush is not likely to do much better.
Speaking of toothbrushes, the quality of our oral hygiene also has a significant effect on the colour of our teeth. Stainers are particularly effective on teeth that aren’t clean since transparent plaque is readily coloured when exposed to these coloured drinks. This goes for tartar too (a sign of plaque that has stayed too long). Since a professional cleaning is your best defence against tartar development and staining, it is important to compliment your daily oral hygiene regimen with regular visits to your dentist.
Why Do We Want Whiter Teeth?
The overwhelming desire to whiten our teeth can be seen as a sign of market sophistication. Where at one time the primary goal of dental patients was just to keep their natural teeth and be able to avoid dentures, we now commonly understand oral hygiene and we are looking for ways to make the most of the teeth we care for. Since our teeth are not easily concealed in conversation, a whiter smile helps us to feel confident in our appearance.
What Can My Dentist Do to Help?
We know that you have lots of choices where it comes to whitening, but if you want the best results, we recommend seeing your dentist for clinical strength bleaching. While at-home kits may provide results, many patients invest in these strip systems only to find the process too painful to sustain. Since these strips don’t allow you to easily control where the bleaching solution is placed, the bleaching solution often seeps onto the gums which causes irritation. At-home bleaching agents are not as strong as our clinical strength products, but they are strong enough to cause pain or sensitivity due to dehydration of the dentin. Our clinic uses stronger bleaching agents, but we avail ourselves of complimentary products, such as sealants, to prevent soft tissue burns and desensitizing agents to limit the dehydration factor.
In some cases, as is the case in teeth that have greyed, topical bleaching products are not effective. Our clinic manages these cases by offering procedures such as internal bleaching to reduce discolouration and provide the best value for your investment.
If you are tired of struggling with bleaching agents that provide minimal results with above-average discomfort, call our clinic today to see how one of our general dentists can help you get the smile you’ll be proud to show off!