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Whitening Teeth – Not as simple as a TV ad makes it.

The biggest cause of yellow teeth is lack of contrast: Huh? What’s that? If you are a Caucasian with pale, pink skin (the perfect example is a redhead), your teeth will look yellow because there is no contrast. If you are African American with the same color teeth, your teeth will look much whiter.

And look critically at ‘People’ Magazine – besides the old Photoshop tricks (you don’t really believe that Valerie Bertinelli looks that perfect at age 48, do you?) – you’ll see that the blondes and redheads are made-up with blue eye shadow and dark, red lips. And, many of these stars have had dental work to beat the band – porcelain veneers are the rule.

So, as a ‘commoner’, what do you do to whiten your teeth? To begin, you should walk through your smile with a dentist and define what you are looking for… are you looking for movie star? Are you looking for age 25 (even though you are 45)? Are you looking for (“your age here” – 10 years)? Each step comes with a price tag and a believability factor (ie. Joan Rivers face is unbelievable)

First, if you are under forty, simply try some Crest ‘White Strips’. Don’t get the store brand, please. The manufacturing quality is not as tight. It will probably take two boxes.

As you get older, the issue gets more complex. Some of the darkness you perceive may be due to: crooked teeth, cracks, old fillings, uneven wear and bad habits. Smoking, medications, tea, citrus beverages and red wine are particular culprits (citrus and red wine are acidic and damage the surface of the enamel). The new whitening mouthwashes (I prefer Crest Whitening Mouthrinse) have actually worked rather well – but you need to follow the directions precisely and expect to use them for two months.

Of course, there is bleaching in a dental office, and I’ll be honest, the results are very variable. It can take some patients 2 or even 3 times as long to get to white . And there is a limit to how white the teeth will get. Beyond that, you would need veneers or crowns.

You’ll see a lot of ads for ‘Zoom!’One-hour whitening. It works over the short term but is known for a high incidence of sensitivity. This system gets initial results by dehydrating (drying out) the teeth, making then appear whiter. You then have to follow up with trays at home. And by the way, the light is merely a gimmick.

Popping up are ‘whitening kiosks’, oftentimes associated with salons. They use the same stuff that you can buy in the drugstore and are not licensed. I would be skeptical!

Drugstore whitening products (Natural White, etc) do work, but most of the solution gets swallowed because of the loose fitting tray. The three-step systems use a mild acid rinse to first roughen the teeth, then bleach, then a paste with titanium dioxide (a white pigment). Your results will vary with these. I don’t like them.

In my office we fabricate well-fitting trays to keep the bleach material in close contact with the teeth for several hours. I use the KÖR technique and products which provides me with bleaching gels that have been stored and delivered while under refrigeration. Also, desensitizing medications are a part of the treatment. This approach takes two weeks treatment time (wear the trays while you sleep) and sometimes more.

I like the slower approach; there is usually less sensitivity of the teeth (sensitivity can still be an issue for some). I can monitor your progress and if necessary, change the material or the regimen. And, in a dental office, other cosmetic issues can be addressed at the same time. As I said before, it’s usually not the yellow that is the total problem.

It would be a pleasure to talk with you about whitening and your smile.

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