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What’s the best way to whiten your teeth?

Posted November 27, 2013 in Advice Column, Waukee

Of course we all want to have the whitest, brightest smile that we can have, but how can we get the “Hollywood” smile?

As a dentist, I see many, many patients who want to have beautiful white teeth. Teeth whitening is ideal for people who have healthy, unrestored teeth (no fillings) and healthy gums. Individuals with yellow tones to their teeth respond best. So, what are the secrets to success in this area?

The first way to get the whitest teeth possible is to avoid, as much as possible, the foods and drinks that cause staining. These include coffee (gasp!), red wine (double gasp!), tea, soda pop and foods and sauces, such as soy sauce and tomato ketchup, that can stain teeth. Please do not go cold turkey on coffee or other caffeinated beverages and wonder why you have a three-day headache, but decreasing the amounts can really cut down on staining of the teeth and help tremendously when you want to whiten them.

Whitening toothpastes
All toothpastes help remove surface stains because they contain mild abrasives. Some whitening toothpastes contain gentle polishing or chemical agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Whitening toothpastes can help remove surface stains only and do not contain bleach. Whitening toothpastes can lighten the tooth’s color by about one shade. In contrast, light-activated whitening conducted in a dentist’s office can make your teeth three to eight shades lighter.

Over-the-counter whitening strips and gels
Whitening gels are clear, peroxide-based gels applied with a small brush directly to the surface of your teeth. Instructions generally call for twice a day application for 14 days. Initial results are seen in a few days, and final results are sustained for about four months.

Whitening strips are very thin, virtually invisible strips that are coated with a peroxide-based whitening gel. The strips are applied twice daily for 30 minutes for 14 days. Initial results are seen in a few days, and final results are sustained for about four months.

Tray-based tooth whiteners
Tray-based tooth whitening systems, purchased either over the counter or from a dentist, involve filling a mouth guard-like tray with a gel whitening solution which contains a peroxide-whitening agent. The tray is worn for a period of time, generally from an hour a day to every day during the night for up to four weeks and even longer (depending on the degree of discoloration and desired level of whitening).

In-office whitening
In-office bleaching provides the quickest way to whiten teeth. With in-office bleaching, the whitening product is applied directly to the teeth. These products can be used in combination with heat, a special light, and/or a laser. Results are seen in only one 30- to 60-minute treatment. But to achieve dramatic results, several appointments are sometimes needed. However, with in-office bleaching, dramatic results can be seen after the first treatment.

Information provided by Dr. Steffany Mohan, dentist, author and speaker, Plaza Dental Group, 1089 Jordan Creek Parkway, Suite 100, West Des Moines,, 515-224-5999.

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