Most people dream of having whiter teeth—having a set of pearly whites that are actually white is a huge confidence booster. Unfortunately, there are plenty of delicious foods and drinks out there that stain our teeth over time, and aging can play a hand in our teeth becoming yellow, too. As a result, white teeth can often feel like something that only a precious few can really achieve—safely, anyway. Done wrong, whitening your teeth can damage the enamel, making the teeth sensitive and more prone to staining in the future.
Advances in dentistry, however, means that teeth-whitening treatments are more affordable than ever, and there’s a wealth of over-the-counter and natural whitening solutions. This means that everyone can find a way to improve the whiteness of their teeth without stretching their budget beyond its limit.
How to Get a Whiter Smile
1. In-Office Whitening
Today, whitening treatments at the dentist’s office are faster and more affordable than ever. Dr. Harrison uses the Zoom! tooth whitening system to whiten your teeth in just one visit. She will take a cast of your mouth and create a customized tray that fits it perfectly. Then she will put gel into the tray and expose it to a special light; the light works together with the gel to remove even the most stubborn stains from your mouth. You’ll keep the mouthpiece, which is designed to be comfortable, in your mouth for about an hour.
Unlike at-home treatments or natural remedies, you don’t need multiple repetitions of the treatment; once the treatment is completed, you’ll notice an immediate and dramatic difference. Your teeth will be several shades lighter than when you came in, less than two hours earlier.
2. Whitening Strips
Over-the-counter whitening strips are a popular and inexpensive way to whiten your teeth. They’re common, accessible to most people, and easy to do at home, but they do come with some major drawbacks. Since they’re a mass-produced, one-size-fits-all approach to teeth whitening, the strips may not fit your teeth perfectly. This can result in some yellow patches on your teeth where the whitening strip doesn’t reach. The whitening strips and the chemicals within come into direct contact with your gums as a result of the strips not fitting everyone’s mouth just right, which can result in sensitive gums. These same chemicals may also negatively affect the good bacteria in your mouth.
You should be careful about how you use the whitening strips; discuss with Dr. Harrison which strips are safest before you decide which to buy, and follow the directions carefully. Using strips improperly or too often can result in damage to your teeth’s enamel. Not only can this result in sensitive teeth, but it can also make your teeth more susceptible to staining in the future. While whitening strips won’t provide the dramatic results that some other treatments will, they will whiten your teeth when you use them properly. For plenty of people, just a little care in the way they use the strips paired with their affordable nature makes this treatment option worth a shot.
3. At-Home Whitening Trays
This is essentially professional dentistry’s version of at-home whitening strips. For this method, you receive a tray designed to fit your mouth perfectly and comfortably, which you take home with whitening gel. This gel varies depending upon your discussion with Dr. Harrison; you may only need to wear it for a short period of time during the day, or for a longer time at night. You’ll generally do this daily for about two weeks.
Since the tray is custom designed for your mouth, your sensitive gums are protected from the peroxide-based gel that whitens your teeth. You’ll notice a significant difference in the whiteness of your teeth at the end of the two weeks, though you may also notice short-term tooth or gum sensitivity.
4. Activated Charcoal
This is a celebrated natural remedy, but it doesn’t have any official scientific studies backing it up. Regardless, it’s an inexpensive method that many people swear by, so it may be worth a try, But it won’t work with the speed of professional dentistry treatments or whitening strips.
The idea behind activated charcoal is that, since it is proven to pull toxins from the body, it may also absorb the stains from your teeth. This method is as easy as brushing your teeth lightly with the activated charcoal and then letting it sit on your teeth for five to 10 minutes. Once you’ve let it sit, you simply rinse your mouth thoroughly and, if you’d like, brush your teeth with your usual toothpaste. While it’s okay to brush with this once in a while, it shouldn’t replace your normal toothpaste.
There are some things to be aware of when you try activated charcoal, however; it can be abrasive, so take a look at the abrasiveness level of the charcoal before you buy it. If the charcoal is too abrasive, it could damage your enamel. You should also be careful that you’re buying from a reputable brand, as there is a very big difference between ingesting activated charcoal and plain charcoal; the latter is never a good thing to put in your body. Also be aware that ingesting the activated charcoal can disrupt certain medications if they’re still in your stomach by absorbing them, much the same way it was once used to absorb poisons. This can make the medication less effective or even prevent its absorption into your body altogether.
5. Porcelain Veneers
Some people suffer from stains that simply cannot be removed by whitening treatments. These stains can be caused by a variety of things throughout early childhood, including too much fluoride, a fall that damaged a tooth, or the use of tetracycline antibiotics. In such cases, you may want to get porcelain veneers in order to gain a white smile.
The veneers are custom made for you, so you can choose their shade, size, and shape beforehand. This means that in addition to making your smile whiter, veneers can correct crooked teeth and change the overall appearance of your smile; if you love your smile as it is, however, they can be made to look like your original teeth.
Applying the veneers is a minor procedure that often doesn’t require anesthesia. A very small layer of enamel is removed from the front of your teeth so that the veneers don’t make them look bulky. Then the veneers are fitted to your teeth. The porcelain material of the veneers means that they are resistant to staining, and some insurance companies will help cover the cost since it is often considered a restorative procedure.
Whether you’d prefer a fast-acting and dramatic change directly from the dentist or a more natural remedy at home, there is no shortage of methods available for you to try. With so many choices, you’re sure to find something that fits both your preferences and your budget; just follow the directions and practice good oral hygiene in order to keep your teeth healthy. Once you’ve found a method that works for you, you’ll be flashing a whiter, more confident smile in no time!