Do You Want To Get Your Teeth White, Fast?
You may have seen the Crest commercial for Crest 3D White Strips that features two women talking about whether or not their smile can pass the “Tissue Test.”
The commercial has been airing for several months. If you have not seen it yet, you can check it out on YouTube.
No. While it is great for patients to feel motivated to improve oral hygiene habits and utilize whitening products to keep their smiles beautiful, this particular commercial propagates the idea that an unnatural level of whiteness indicates health. It also suggests that patients whose teeth are not at this “ideal” shade, should be embarrassed.
In the commercial, Crest is encouraging people to compare the shade of their natural teeth to a piece of facial tissue. The message is that if your teeth cannot pass the “Tissue Test,” you need to buy their products. This commercial leads people to have an unrealistic standard for a shade that is achievable from whitening their natural teeth. The “Tissue Test” is not a viable representation of realistic outcomes from using over-the-counter or prescription whitening products. Trying to achieve the same color as a tissue will lead patients to spend money on products that simply cannot deliver the promised results leaving them broke, frustrated and self-conscious about their smiles.
The truth is, natural teeth come in a variety of shades. Not everyone needs to have the same shade of teeth in order to have a beautiful, “white” smile. Whitening products are safe to use as directed, but if they are used excessively or improperly, they can lead to severe tooth sensitivity.
Let’s get real and give you real results.
Teeth Whitening Process at Nebraska Family Dentistry
What Factors Determine How White My Teeth Can Realistically Become By Using Bleaching agents?
There are many factors that determine how white an individual’s teeth may become from using tooth whitening products. Some of these factors are manageable and some are not. It is difficult to promise patients that their expected outcome will be achievable because of these factors.
- Initial Tooth Shade
One of the factors that can determine the ability of teeth to whiten is, initial tooth color. Patients who naturally have a more yellowed hue to their teeth typically have a greater response to the whitening agents than those with grayish or brown hues. Gray discoloration can be seen in individuals who have taken certain medications at varying points in the development of their tooth enamel. Tetracycline is associated with gray staining. Brown stains are often from overexposure to fluoride found in natural water sources during development. These types of factors can influence the outcome of whitening treatments.
- Unique Whitening Potential
Every person has a certain level of lightness that can be achieved. It is impossible to whiten teeth beyond this level. This varies between individuals and is controlled by genetics and determined by the “value” our teeth have naturally. When we whiten teeth, we cannot change the hue or value of the teeth, we can only brighten it.
- The Strength Of Whitening Agents and Active Ingredients
Over-the-counter whitening products have lower concentrations of active ingredients. These types of products will take longer to yield results and will need to be re-applied frequently to maintain results. Professional whitening systems have higher concentrations of active ingredients and provide a more controlled method of application.
Teeth whitening solutions with higher concentrations of active ingredients will give faster results. Typically, over-the-counter products have hydrogen peroxide listed as the main active ingredient at 9-15% strength. Professional systems use carbamide peroxide at varying percentages, up to 45%.
Why Do Zoom Whitening Gels Cause Sensitivity?
Every whitening product on the market can cause sensitivity at varying degrees. One of the main reasons for this is that during bleaching, the tooth becomes dehydrated. When UV or LED lights are added to the active ingredient, this intensifies the dehydration and increases the sensitivity. Light-based whitening systems have been heavily marketed and this gives consumers the idea that lights are critical for better results. The truth is that teeth indeed appear lighter immediately after a Zoom whitening session due to the severe dehydration of the teeth. Once the tooth rebounds, this temporary extra-white shade only lasts for about 5-7 days.
Why Do Crest White Strips Cause Sensitivity?
Crest White Strips do not dehydrate the teeth as intensely as Zoom systems and have a weaker concentration of active ingredients. Thus, the sensitivity with these products is usually due to the lack of control of the solution on the strips. The gel on the strips touches gum tissue, mixes with saliva and makes patients more likely to swallow it, leading to sensitivity of the soft tissues in the mouth.
What Systems Do We Recommend at Nebraska Family Dentistry?
We use Opalescence brand whitening gels at a concentration of 35%. The reason why we choose to use this system is that the main ingredient is carbamide peroxide which is a slow-release whitening agent at a 35% concentration. The slow-uptake of this compound into the tooth increases patient comfort during application. Opalescence also has desensitizing agents (potassium nitrate and fluoride) within the solution to help prevent sensitivity.
- Patients will see results in a shorter application period and only need to wear the trays for 30 minutes per session.
- Trays are custom made. This prevents irritation and burning of gum tissue during whitening, which eliminates one of the main causes of discomfort during whitening treatment. Trays can also be used to apply sensitivity toothpaste between whitening sessions.
For patients who would like a more immediate result, in-office whitening treatment utilizing custom trays and a stronger concentration of whitening agents can be applied under the supervision of a dentist. The benefit of this method is that the patient gets the value of taking home their custom trays for future touch-ups after treatment.
How Often Will I Need To Touch-Up After Initial Whitening?
This varies between individuals. Drinking coffee, tea, red wine, tomato-based sauces and smoking can stain teeth faster between bleaching sessions. It is recommended to avoid such foods for at least 24-48 hours after you have finished bleaching your teeth to allow them to re-hydrate so they do not stain immediately. Using a whitening toothpaste can also help reduce surface stains between whitening sessions. The use of charcoal to whiten teeth has been gaining popularity because of the natural ingredients. There is limited research on the safety or effectiveness of this whitening method. It is likely to help remove surface stains from tea and coffee, but the ability of these products to bleach the teeth has not yet been proven.
Professional Whitening Did Not Give Me the Results I Wanted
When professional whitening does not deliver the results a patient desires, often this is due to the factors mentioned above and include teeth which are very translucent, have a grayish hue or severe discoloration from fluorosis.
Thus, teeth may not whiten to the desired brightness. The option for these patients is to place veneers on the teeth. Veneers allow us to completely change the color and shape of your teeth.
Does Charcoal Toothpaste Work For Whitening Teeth?
There is very little scientific evidence or clinical research to support claims of charcoal toothpaste efficacy or its safety as a whitening agent. Although charcoal tooth products can make teeth feel extremely clean and smooth, there are some disadvantages to using them on a regular basis. Charcoal is more abrasive than particles found in toothpaste. Repeated use could potentially erode tooth enamel, which can actually make teeth more prone to collecting stains. Enamel erosion can increase sensitivity and contribute to the recession of the gum tissue around the teeth. Gum recession can make teeth more prone to decay. Any time highly abrasive substances are applied to the teeth, enamel is eroded which can expose the inner layer of dentin beneath the enamel. This actually creates a more yellow tooth appearance over time due to the thinning of the enamel layer.
Ingesting activated charcoal tablets or other products has potential side effects. Diarrhea, vomiting, GI damage, black tongue and improper absorption of certain medications like digoxin, acetaminophen, theophylline, tricyclic antidepressants, diabetes medications and some birth control are just some of the potential side effects.
Is Charcoal Toothpaste Better Than Professional Whitening?
Charcoal toothpaste does not contain whitening agents and there is currently no data to support any claims that it can lighten tooth enamel. Due to the abrasive nature of charcoal, it may be effective at removing surface staining from coffee or smoking, but it will not bleach the teeth. There are also disadvantages of using charcoal toothpaste for an at-home surface stain removal method. If a patient desires a whiter, brighter smile, professional whitening is the only proven method to lighten tooth enamel.