What you need to know about keeping your teeth as white as pearls

image courtesy:  dentistinnewportbeach.wordpress.com
image courtesy: dentistinnewportbeach.wordpress.com

They say a set of great teeth adds to the first impression you make, because it is all about a smile. And we know how a lousy set of ‘pearly whites’ can reduce the wattage of a smile. Which is why it is important that you take care of them meticulously.

There are a few things you need to know about whitening teeth and why it is different from cleaning them. It is common for most people’s teeth to get yellowish or dirty due to various kinds of deposits over time. What you need in such a case is a procedure called scaling (which must be performed by a qualified dentist), and you should not do it more than once a year or your pearly whites may lose their strong foundation. Scaling and whitening treatments are not mutually inclusive.

When you go in for a tooth whitening process, what you get is a chemical treatment. Just like bleaching hair, in the case teeth peroxide group of chemicals are used, like hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.

When a peroxide comes in contact with the surface of a tooth, it releases free radical oxygen. The free radical penetrates the outer layers of the tooth, oxidises the colour producing pigments. This makes the teeth whither.

The truth about bleaching teeth is that it works as per the treatment undertaken. A whitening toothpaste (though most such toothpastes don’t do much)  works very slowly. On the other hand, if you visit a dentist and do an hour-long treatment over two sessions in a week, chances are your teeth will visibly glisten. In short, the attractive shade takes a while to come through clearly.

Also, just like the whitewash on a wall, bleaching your teeth has a shelf life. It is not a permanent solution. After a session of bleaching, the effects will start to wear off in about two years. So, you are going to need touch-ups at regular intervals. Also, you will have to curb habits that make teeth yellow (like smoking or chewing tobacco) if you want a set of pearly whites that don’t go dim easily.

While there are very few side-effects if a good dentist bleaches your teeth, your teeth are likely to feel ‘tender’ and a little too sensitive for a few days at the most. Also, your gums may feel a bit irritated due to contact with the peroxide.

If you have bonded fillings, veneers or crowns on the front teeth, it is advisable that they be replaced after the whitening process is over.

Certain kinds of tooth discolouration is beyond whitening. Too much fluoride intake during childhood yellows teeth permanently, just like prolonged use of the antibiotic tetracycline during childhood, which makes teeth grey. In such cases, you may have to go in for a veneer.

Once you have undergone a whitening session, here is what you must do to maintain the quality of the shade:

  •  Reduce tea, coffee, wine, soft drinks.
  •  Quit smoking and tobacco usage. That’s good for your over all health as well
  •  Brush twice daily, preferably after meals.
  •  Floss to get rid of food particles stuck in your teeth.

Who should not go for tooth bleaching:

  •  Children and pregnant or lactating women
  •  People who have cavities, gum issues, exposed tooth roots, and hypersensitive teeth
  •  Those allergic to peroxides

    Here’s some more insights from our dentist, Dr. Talekar, on keeping your oral health in check.

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