You haven't felt confident about your smile in a while. Thanks to age, medication, dark foods, or other factors, your teeth have become discolored. In the meantime, you see celebrities and friends with beautiful white smiles, and you feel a hint of envy. You want to bleach the discoloration away, but you feel apprehension as you think about your treatment options. 

Many people feel nervous about teeth whitening. They may worry about potential side effects and think a white smile doesn't merit the pain. However, in reality, teeth whitening can safely give most people the beautiful teeth they desire.

Read on to learn the facts about teeth whitening. Once you know the truth, you can make an informed decision about whether you want this treatment or not.

What Is Teeth Whitening?

You regularly expose your teeth to a variety of foods and drinks that leave stains. Fortunately, you can use cosmetic procedures like teeth whitening to remove the stains and bleach your teeth's color.

How the Treatment Works

You have two primary ways to whiten your teeth. The first removes surface stains, while the second bleaches the color. Stainremoving whiteners include products like whitening toothpaste and mouthwash that you can purchase over the counter. Both gently polish the tooth to lift surface stains.

Bleaching whiteners refer to gels that contain carbamide peroxide, a substance that lightens your teeth's color. These gels usually produce whiter results because the chemical compounds actually penetrate the tooth to remove deep stains and change enamel color.

You can purchase some bleaching gels over the counter, but a dentist must apply most higher-concentration products. Get a dental exam to see if this type of whitening will work for you.

Common Teeth Whitening Myths

Several myths surround teeth whitening techniques. To set the record straight, we will explain the facts that debunk these common myths.

It Will Damage the Enamel

Some people believe that the peroxide in bleach whiteners can deteriorate the enamel on their teeth. However, studies

(http://www.jopdentonline.org/doi/pdf/10.2341/1559-2863-30-2-1#page=131) show that teeth whitening products that contain 10% carbamide peroxide do not significantly affect your enamel's hardness or mineral content. Most at-home teeth whiteners contain that amount or less and have approval from the American Dental Association.

When you use teeth whiteners as directed and under your dentist's supervision, your enamel will not sustain damage.

It Is Painful

Some people hesitate to get teeth whitening because they've heard it feels painful. While some people do experience sensitivity during or after the whitening process, that sensitivity is minimal and short-term in most cases.

Some factors can make you more prone to sensitivity. These factors include:

  • Pre-existing tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Weak enamel due to heavy brushing or acidic foods
  • Preexisting sensitivity
If any of these factors apply to you, you can still whiten your teeth with minimal discomfort. Use a whitening product with a lower percentage of carbamide peroxide, and whiten your teeth for a shorter time period.

However, you should always talk to your dentist before you whiten your teeth. He or she will tell you if you are eligible for the procedure and advise you on the best product to use.

It Can Cause Oral Cancer

Some people believe tooth whitening can cause oral cancer. However, in 2010, the American Dental Association

(http://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/About%20the%20ADA/Files/ada_house_of_delegates_whitening_report.ashx) said that a 20-year study found no long-term side effects from teeth whitening when the procedure occurred under a dentist's supervision.

Proven causes for oral cancer include:

  • Tobacco use (chewing and smoking)
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Sun exposure
  • A diet of red meats and highly processed and fried foods
  • Gastro-esophageal reflux disease
  • Human papillomavirus
  • Exposure to chemicals such as asbestos, sulfuric acid and formaldehyde
Scientists have not proven a link between teeth whitening products and oral cancer, and multiple studies determined that teeth whiteners are safe for oral use.

Teeth Whitening Facts

Now that you've read about the myths surrounding teeth whitening, you should know a couple more things before you schedule an appointment for this procedure.

Whitening Isn't Permanent

Whitening your teeth is not a permanent solution. Things like coffee, black tea, red wine, and acidic foods can decrease whiteness in as little as one month. You can preserve your smile's brightness for over a year if you consume these foods and beverages sparingly and maintain good oral habits.

Whitening Is Not for Everyone

Pregnant or nursing women should not whiten their teeth. Whitening can also damage nerves and hinder tooth growth in children under the age of 16. If you you're not sure if you're good candidate for teeth whitening, talk to your dentist.

 

For most people, teeth whitening is safe and affordable. More importantly, it will give you a whiter, more beautiful smile. You will feel better about yourself and more confident around your peers. Talk to your local dentist about the best whitening option for you.