According to a study published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, more than 90 percent of dental and orthodontic patients also request tooth whitening. The fact is, as no less than Inc. magazine recently reported, having a bright white smile you love to show off is important for every goal you have in life. People who smile more tend to make more money, receive more frequent promotions, look younger, have more friends and connections, feel better, live longer, lead better and be happier.
No wonder there is so much demand for teeth whitening services! But how can you tell all the different options apart and figure out which is best for you? And how can you maximize the results of your in-office teeth whitening? Should you use over-the-counter options like whitening mouthwash or will that hurt your results? Find out in this blog post.
How the Teeth Whitening Process Works
The American Dental Association (ADA) highlights how important it is to understand how the process of teeth whitening really works.
Once you understand the basic underlying mechanism behind teeth whitening you will be in a much better position to maintain your teeth whitening results long term.
The ADA explains that there are two basic types of teeth whitening and both are bleaches. The two types are carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide.
Regardless of the bleaching type you choose, the way they work is basically the same. Once applied, the bleaches go to work to dismantle tooth stains bit by tiny bit, almost like a tiny eraser.
How Do Tooth Stains Develop?
Marc Lazare, teeth whitening expert in New York, notes that tooth stains can develop in any number of ways and for a wide variety of reasons.
Different stains may be easier or harder to lift. Generally, lighter stains such as yellowing are easier to bleach away, while gray or brown stains are more resistant to whitening efforts. Some stains, such as those caused by mouth trauma or injury, may not respond to bleaching much if at all.
As well, it is important to be aware that teeth whitening treatments generally do not work on dental prosthetics such as implants, bridges, veneers or crowns.
The most common causes of tooth stains include:
1. Food and drink
If you have ever had to go to the sink to wash dark blueberry stains off your fingertips, you already understand how food and drink can stain your teeth.
Over time and with repeated exposure (such as that daily morning cup of coffee) your teeth will become increasingly less white.
2. Smoking and nicotine use
Smoking, vaping, snuff, gum and other sources of nicotine can stain your teeth quite badly over time, and the brown stains are some of the harder stains to lift.
3. Injury or trauma
If you have experienced an injury or trauma to your mouth or teeth, injured nerves and blood vessels may cause tooth discoloration.
4. Medication use
Medications used to treat cancer such as chemotherapy and radiation are some of the best-known drugs that can cause tooth discoloration. Another common culprit is the acne medicine tetracycline, which can cause lasting tooth discoloration.
5. The natural aging process
The natural process of aging can also cause the tooth enamel to wear thin and look less white and more yellow over time.
Will Whitening Mouthwash Help or Hurt?
To date, research shows that whitening mouthwash is not harmful to teeth that have been professionally whitened.
While a whitening mouthwash is unlikely to deliver comparable results to the outcome of a professional teeth whitening treatment, even when used consistently over time, it is equally unlikely to degrade or interfere with the results you get from professional teeth whitening.
Too-frequent use of any product designed to bleach and whiten teeth can sometimes cause temporary tooth sensitivity. Patients who experience tooth sensitivity from any tooth whitening product generally find that this side effect fades after a few days of not using the product.
How to Choose a Whitening Mouthwash
According to the ADA, the best whitening mouthwash will also provide other important oral health benefits, such as helping to control tartar and plaque buildup on teeth, guarding against decay and dental caries, fighting back against gum inflammation and infection (gingivitis/periodontal disease) and, of course, improving breath.
The ADA specifies two different categories of mouthwash: cosmetic and therapeutic. It is important to note that a mouthwash can serve both purposes, such as a whitening mouthwash that also provides health benefits such as the ones just mentioned here.
Some of the best whitening mouthwashes will themselves require a prescription from your dentist or orthodontist. These mouthwashes are often recommended as a follow-up to a professional teeth whitening treatment and for daily use after preventative dental care or dental treatment.
The more you can do to improve your overall oral health by brushing, flossing, gargling with mouthwash and choosing your daily menu with tooth health and color in mind, the longer your teeth whitening results will last.