I’ve never used an at-home teeth whitener but I want to – what should I know?
– Dull Teeth
According to the dental industry – which isn’t actually comprised of dentists but rather the manufacturers of teeth whitening products – your smile is giving away your age. This is due to the fact that as we advance in years our teeth turn yellow even as our hair is turning white. Who’s in charge here? This yellowing process can be exacerbated by factors such as smoking, drinking coffee, breathing air, and growing old.
Over the last few years many do-it-yourself bleaching products have hit the shelves. These kits suggest that after completing the teeth whitening process, your brighter smile will keep folks guessing about your true age even as you motor around the Geriatric Department of the Hip Replacement Center.
Sample conversation overheard in the Geriatric Department of the Hip Replacement Center:
“See that lady on the gurney with the plaid house dress and support hose? How old do you suppose she is?”
“By the looks of her pearly whites I’d guess twenty-three!”
The most popular bleaching kits utilize either paint-on whiteners or adhesive whitening strips. Both methods promote a sustained interaction between the surface of your teeth and the main ingredient – Hydrogen Peroxide.
This oxidizing agent penetrates the pores of your tooth’s enamel straight down to the dentine layer.
Also on the list of ingredients are Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, and Pyrophosphate – the same ingredients found in bathroom disinfectants, hair colorants, drain cleaners, and glow sticks.
When selecting which kit to purchase, it’s easy to become confused. Crest alone has three different varieties: Crest Whitestrips Premium guarantees results after 3 days. Crest Whitestrips Premium Plus guarantees results in 10 days. Crest Whitestrips Classic – Proctor and Gamble’s original product – promises results in 14 days although that particular result is: what a fucking waste of 14 days.
According to Crest’s directions, the Whitestrips should be worn on your upper and lower teeth twice a day for a period of thirty minutes. They also recommend that you avoid applying the strips to your upper and lower teeth at the same time – which means that you will spend a total of two hours every day whitening your teeth. Of course the researches at Crest are quick to compile a list of activities you can accomplish while bleaching your teeth – such as surfing the web, commuting to work, and managing your large spittoon because the strips make you drool like a Bull Mastiff.
Or you can inch over to the Colgate shelf and try their Simply White products, such as Simply White Night, which is a paint-on liquid applied before bed every night for two weeks. This method is said to reach areas between teeth, which are often ignored by Crest’s strips. This product works best when allowed to dry completely on the teeth – a predicament nearly impossible considering the interior of the mouth is always wet.
And here are a few other problems associated with these over-the-counter products:
- The whitening agent can ruin cloth, leather, and fabric – but in your very own mouth it’s fine.
- It won’t work for everyone – for instance they don’t do much for teeth that are discolored due to antibiotics or fluoride. They also won’t whiten veneers, fillings, dentures, or
caps & gownscaps & crowns.
- The whitening process can cause increased tooth sensitivity due to the fact that your opened enamel pores come into direct contact with the environment. The good news is this sensitivity dwindles as your saliva delivers calcium and phosphate to the tooth’s surface which strengthens the tooth’s enamel. The bad news is your saliva also delivers coffee and red wine to the tooth’s surface and before you know it you’re standing back in the whitening aisle of your drugstore.
There is also growing controversy over whether the bleaching process in general weakens tooth enamel. Despite repeated proclamations that it is safe, a recent study found evidence of the opposite as shown by the following triangle nanoindentation in the scanning probe micrograph. What is the significance of a nanoindentation in a scanning probe micrograph? I don’t know but lookee at that triangle!
One thing the experts can agree on – if at-home whiteners do cause any damage to the tooth’s enamel, it’s the equivalent amount of damage caused by drinking soda.