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A Man’s Guide to Teeth Whitening

by nick

Having whiter teeth can take years off your appearance and improve your overall look. Most women are attracted to men with a healthy white smile, so if you’re insecure about your teeth then it’s time to do something about it.

In this article I’m going to help give you a better understanding of what causes teeth discoloration, how to prevent your teeth from going yellow in the first place, and the various teeth whitening options available.

Understanding Teeth Discoloration

There are various reasons why your teeth can become discoloured. There are three main types of tooth discoloration:

Extrinsic discoloration – Stains that appear on the outer layer (enamel) of the tooth. Extrinsic stains can be caused when your teeth are regularly exposed to coffee, red wine, cola and other drinks or foods. Smoking also causes extrinsic stains.

Intrinsic discoloration – Stains that appear when the inner structure of the tooth darkens or gets a yellow tint. You can get this type of discoloration if:

  • You had trauma that affected a tooth when you were a young child. A knock or fall for example, may damage the developing permanent tooth.
  • You had trauma in a permanent tooth, and internal bleeding discoloured the tooth.
  • You were born with a rare condition called dentinogenesis imperfect which causes grey, amber or purple discolorations.
  • You are taking a form of antibiotics that can cause your teeth to turn yellow.

Age-related discoloration – This is a combination of both extrinsic and intrinsic discolorations. Dentin naturally yellows as we get older. The enamel that covers teeth thins with age, which allows the dentin to show through. Food, drink and smoking can also stain teeth over time.

Symptoms of teeth discoloration – Staining in the enamel can vary from white streaks to yellow tints or brown spots and pits. If the enamel has worn away and the dentin is showing through, you may notice a yellow tint in the dentin.

Diagnosis of teeth discoloration – A dentist can diagnose tooth discoloration by analysing the teeth. I also found this handy chart that you can compare your teeth against. If your teeth are anywhere near a 5 then I’d definitely recommend you consult your dentist about teeth whitening.


Preventing Teeth Discoloration

Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly will help prevent stains. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day (morning and evening) and floss at least once. I’ve covered this in another article: A Man’s Guide to Oral and Dental Care.

Dentists recommend that you rinse your mouth with water after having wine, coffee or other drinks and foods that stain your teeth. Avoiding such foods and drinks and quitting smoking will reduce staining, however this isn’t always practical. Regular cleanings by a dental hygienist will also help remove surface stains.

Intrinsic stains that are caused by damage to a nerve or blood vessel in a tooth can sometimes be prevented. Root canal treatment will remove the inner part of the tooth before it has a chance to decay and darken. However, teeth that have root canal treatment may darken anyway. Make sure you visit your dentist at least twice a year, to get your full cleaning, cavity-check, and whatever professional dental care you may need.

Teeth Whitening Treatments

Firstly, it’s very important that you visit your dentist before taking any actual tooth whitening measures yourself. Your dentist will be able to evaluate your teeth and offer a professional opinion on what sort of treatment might be best for you. There are lots of products, brands and treatments available on the market so understanding what each option involves is an important first step.

Whitening toothpaste – The general view is that whitening toothpastes are not very different from normal toothpastes apart from containing added chemicals, abrasives and polishing agents. Although it provides extra stain removal, whitening toothpastes are not designed to change the natural color of your teeth. Regular brushing with a good technique is more important for keeping teeth stain-free than the type of toothpaste you use.

Whitening strips – These packages are sold over the counter and contain multiple strips of film that you put over your teeth. They are fairly inexpensive, easy to use and most of them really work. You’ll see results within a few days depending on the peroxide that they contain and the whitening effect can last up to four months.

Teeth whitening trays and gels – Trays and gels are effective, but the results depend on the strength of peroxide in the gel. The trays are usually worn a couple of hours a day or overnight and can take anywhere from 3 days to a couple of weeks before you notice any results. There are two different types of whitening trays and gels: Those purchased over the counter and those purchased at the dentist. Although both will whiten your teeth, the two vary in results.

Teeth whitening kits from the dentist produce faster and more effective results because they contain a stronger peroxide-bleaching agent compared to whitening kits purchased at your local drug store. Another benefit of dentist trays and gels is that the trays are custom made to fit your teeth exactly. Over the counter trays are generic in size which could allow the bleaching agent to come into contact with your gums, causing irritation.

Laser teeth whitening – Also known as laser bleaching and in-surgery whitening, laser teeth whitening is an expensive but effective way to whiten teeth and is most often carried out at specialist clinics and cosmetic dental surgeries. Unlike regular bleaching, laser whitening produces results in one session, without that hassle of wearing moulds for days at a time. A gel is applied directly to the teeth before their whitening work is accelerated using a laser.

Teeth Whitening – Conclusion

If you’re still unsure, ask your dentist to recommend a teeth whitening treatment for you. Remember, yellow discolored teeth is a turn off for most women, so if your teeth are stained and you want to improve your appearance, definitely visit your dentist and ask them to recommend the best method for you.

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