Whitening without whitening – does it really work?

Gina Revitt takes a look at the different whitening techniques used by patients today.

It’s 2017, nobody has patience and everybody wants a quick fix, whether it’s a waist trainer instead of a personal trainer or diet pills instead of an actual diet, most of these things are less invasive on your effort levels and your pocket, but it doesn’t stop there. Can we whiten our teeth without whitening our teeth?

How many of these new alternatives actually work?

Working in cosmetic dentistry, and having bleach shade teeth ourselves, this is something we get asked every day, in work, or out. It may be questions about charcoal, pulling oil, bicarbonate of soda and other inevitable trends we see on social media. But can we really substitute whitening our teeth with bleach and see the same results?

The first method of whitening I heard about, (and paid little attention to as it sounds far too messy) was charcoal, the stuff from the barbeque, for whitening our teeth. Is this really what we should be getting stuck between our teeth for a Hollywood smile without the Hollywood price tag? Its new, it’s exciting, it’s Yin and Yang, but sadly, there isn’t any evidence that it actually works. I will agree that black toothpaste does look rather ‘cool’ but that is as far as I will allow myself to be sucked in by this one.

Oil pulling – an ancient technique of swilling an oil of your choice around your mouth for a full 20 minutes a day (I don’t know about you, but I most certainly can’t keep quiet for that amount of time!). Not only are there suggestions that it whitens the teeth, but it prevents cavities and gum disease, sinus induced sleep problems, halitosis and TMJ problems, which would seem strange as I think swilling for that amount of time might actually give the TMJ a pretty heavy workout. It sounds far too good to be true, and if these things are true we may all be out of a job! Although some of these oils may be a healthy substitute for cooking and may contain vitamins, I’m not sold.

So the question really is extrinsic versus intrinsic

Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide penetrate deep into the tooth and is left topically, enclosed between the tray and the tooth for three to eight hours dependant, but most of the above, including whitening toothpastes are on and off the teeth in minutes, going no further than the enamel we can see. There is clear evidence that whitening bleach can have great results on the teeth.

Using bleach to whiten teeth was discovered when it was used to help with gum disease. Like all great happy accidents in life, Marmite, Guiness, Worcesteshire sauce, we didn’t want them, but were so glad to have them!

The second thing we should be asking ourselves when deciding how we want to improve our dental shade is, are we wanting to whiten or brighten?

There is a big difference between these two words when we’re discussing it in this context.

One is changing the shade of your teeth, and one is enhancing what you already have by ridding your poor enamel of evidence of tea, coffee and red wine that we understandably consume day to day.

Maybe the latter is all the patient really wants. Sometimes, a good scale and polish might be just the ticket, and explaining the difference between staining and a dull shade lights up many a light bulb, and is always a welcomed revelation.

Tooth brightening

It’s not realistic to visit the dentist every week for a good clean, so tooth brightening powders seem a great choice. They don’t claim to whiten your teeth, but restore them back to their former glory. With a relative dentine abrasion level of 70 (the same as a top brand toothpaste) they aren’t grinding away your enamel, and you aren’t spending big bucks. You’re not ruining your toothbrush in charcoal and you aren’t sitting swilling!

Brightening powders are something I would always offer to my patients who don’t want a bleach shade smile but aren’t currently that happy with their tooth shade.

Personally, I can’t resist giving my teeth a good bleach, but this is always my go-to when I’ve been hitting the coffee a little too hard throughout the week, and I just want them pearly bright and super smooth.

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