Teeth Whitening

According to Charles Guthrie, a senior research analyst at Penn State University, whiter teeth are associated with a healthier mouth, something that plays a role in mate selection. “A less attractive smile would be an implied negative nonverbal communication,” he told us. “Is this person going to be a good mate? Or, is this person going to bring about harm in one way or another?”

Though, there are plenty of people with not-so-pearly teeth in happy relationships. But like manicuring facial hair or plucking eyebrows, teeth whitening has become a mainstay in the beauty routines of millions and out of the dozens of products available, a few victors emerged in our research and usability tests.

Did You Know?

Teeth whiteners work by getting where non-bleaching products can’t.

Each of your teeth is made up of multiple layers. There’s an inner dentin layer and a hardshell outer enamel layer, which acts as a barrier to protect your teeth. Over time, the stuff you eat and drink — berries, red wine, coffee — forms another layer, the pellicle layer, on top of the enamel. (You don’t have to be a chain smoker or red wine guzzler to have stains on your teeth; all adults have both surface-level and deep stains from everyday living.)

Over the years, the pellicle layer may begin to penetrate the porous enamel layer. In other words, stains from your three-cups-a-day coffee habit seep into the enamel and take up permanent residence. No amount of surface-level scrubbing can get rid of these stains once they’ve penetrated the enamel layer.

Enter: teeth whiteners with bleaching chemicals, aka peroxides. These can penetrate the tooth enamel and initiate a chemical reaction that breaks up the staining compounds.

Not everyone’s teeth will react to whitening.

Not all teeth are capable of being whitened by over-the-counter products; this is especially true for patients with many fillings, crowns, or very dark stains. Color matters too. Patients with yellow teeth (a natural result of aging) generally respond better to teeth whitening products than those with gray teeth. Gray teeth are most often caused by smoking and taking certain medications (such as tetracycline); these stains aren’t dramatically changed by teeth whitening.

Age is also a factor. “Remember that young teeth whiten a lot better than older teeth,” says Dr. Amato. “Over-the-counter products might work as good as dentist products for 16–24 year olds because they haven’t drank as much coffee or red wine to stain their teeth, unlike adults.”<8303023121777docs-internal-guid-d983a2b3-bda2-62f8-74f0-187d9a10f05b">Teeth sensitivity can make whitening painful.

If a bite of ice cream sends shooting pain up and down your teeth, you probably suffer from sensitive teeth. According to the ADA, sensitivity can occur for a variety of reasons: cavities, fractured teeth, worn fillings, gum disease, worn tooth enamel, or an exposed tooth root.

A healthy tooth has a series of protectors in place. These layers are like bodyguards protecting the dentin, the innermost portion of your teeth. First, a layer of enamel offers defense for the crowns of your teeth, the part that exists above the gum line. Another layer below that, called cementum, protects the tooth root. Finally, underneath the enamel and the cementum lies the vulnerable dentin layer.

When enamel and cementum fail to do their job, the dentin is exposed to hot, cold, or acidic foods and drinks, which reach the nerves and cells inside your tooth — and send painful zingers that make you want to chuck the ice cream cone across the room. When the hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide in a bleaching product reaches these nerves, it’s equally painful.

There are treatments for hypersensitivity, including desensitizing toothpaste, fluoride gel that’s applied in-office by your dentist, or, in severe cases, a root canal.

LED lights or lasers probably won’t whiten your teeth any faster.

Some professionally applied products (and some OTC products) include a hand-held LED light or laser that claims to accelerate the teeth whitening process. In most cases, this is bunk. The ADA says that, “Most studies have reported no additional long-term benefit with light-activated systems.” It won’t harm your teeth to use an LED light, but it’s probably a waste of time and money. Skip it.


The Bottom Line

There are two things to look for when you’re picking a teeth whitening treatment: a full ingredients list and hydrogen peroxide levels no higher than 10 percent. Beyond that, it’s personal preference, although we were surprised by how much we preferred paint-on treatments to the more traditional strips — they’re easier, just as effective, and with less chance of gum sensitivity.


So in preparation for the big day – Take Action:

Visit your dentist. Before you spend a single dollar on a whitening product, find out if you’re a good fit for over-the-counter teeth whitening. Remember: Yellow teeth whiten easier than gray, and veneers cannot be whitened at all.

Plan ahead. This is especially important if you’re whitening before a big event, like a wedding or a graduation. If a treatment claims it takes 14 days to achieve full results, you’ll want to be sure you have enough time to finish using the product as intended. If you try to double up on the amount you use per day, you’ll likely end up with painful sensitivity.

If it hurts, don’t do it. You can try brushing with Pronamel Sensodyne toothpaste to cut down on sensitivity during the whitening process. However, if you’re in real pain, give your teeth a break! You can always come back to whitening later.

For more information check out Reviews.com top teeth whitening products here: http://www.reviews.com/teeth-whitening-products/