Arts & Entertainment
Laugh Harder, Smile Brighter
Originally printed 10/31/2013 (Issue 2144 - Between The Lines News)
Everyone likes to get noticed. Looking sexy makes us feel better and more confident. We all spend great amounts of time and effort on bettering ourselves. Whether it's mastering new abilities, getting fit, eating healthier, or purchasing new clothes, each of us has their own way to look especially sexy. What most of us do not realize is that in a majority of cases, it is our smile that other people first notice about our look.
Proven time and time again: Humans notice THE SMILE in the first 10 seconds of meeting a stranger and THE SMILE weighs as much as 80 percent of the decision on whether or not to keep talking to that stranger. THE SMILE is more powerful than the outfit, the scent, the shoes, and even the hair. How is your smile? What can you do to make it sexier or more noticeable? The quickest, most cost effective, and most drastic outcome can come from simply whitening your teeth.
Teeth whitening has come a long way over the last ten years. Professional products have become faster, more effective, more comfortable, less expensive and cause less sensitivity. Even over the counter products have seen advancements.
Your teeth are made of microscopic rods and tubules. A tooth consists of an inner layer of dentin and outer layer of enamel with a nerve and blood supply in the middle. Every time you consume coffee, wine, dark foods, smoke, etc., the pigments stick to the enamel of your teeth. Over time, these pigments get wedged into the crevices between the enamel rods. Even professional dental cleanings cannot remove these stains due to their microscopic nature and tight spacing between the enamel rods.
Bleaching agents typically come in either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. The carbamide peroxide products break down into urea and hydrogen peroxide, which is considered the active bleaching agent. When the hydrogen peroxide is in contact with the tooth, it creates a chemical oxidation reaction. This helps spread the enamel rods apart and simultaneously breaks down and oxidize the deep stain. The stain is washed away from the tooth structure and the rods are re-tightened.
Over-the-counter bleaching products have been proven to lighten the shades of teeth a noticeable amount. A professional teeth cleaning should be done prior to the use of these products to significantly increase their efficacy. These products utilize carbamine peroxide gels or hydrogen peroxide polyethylene strips. Over the counter products are typically a great starting point for people looking to whiten their teeth due to their low costs and availability.
Professional whitening involves specifically tailored regimens of hydrogen or carbamine peroxide based on a patient's need and oral health, divided between in-office and at-home bleaching periods. Prior to any professional bleaching, the teeth must be in pristine condition with no active decay. The gums are protected during in-office treatments with a rubber dam and hardening gel. Concentration gels are used with a variety of agents to shorten the bleaching period, lower hypersensitivity, and create longer lasting results.
The first professional whitening procedure can whiten teeth by six to seven shades. Depending on the patient's goal, professional bleaching can whiten teeth by 15-20 shades, thus providing a dramatically beautiful result. It is important for the dentist to educate the patient on the proper procedure, explain items to avoid during the bleaching process, and discuss that certain teeth cannot be bleached. A tooth with a crown or a filling will not bleach properly and, if undiagnosed, will remain yellow in the presence of all white teeth.
The majority of clinical studies have deemed tooth bleaching safe and effective. Lower percentage gels are harmless to the outer enamel. Higher percentage gels have been shown to slightly weaken the structure of enamel but are now paired with Fluoride to counter these side effects. Patients are typically given Fluoride gels during the bleaching process by their dental providers to help ensure a safe bleaching treatment.
Tooth sensitivity and gum irritation can occur from bleaching. The better products have desensitizers embedded in the gel or come with a desensitizing gel. Properly made professional trays keep the bleach only on the tooth structure and prevent the bleach from leaking onto the gums.
No two teeth are the same and everyone responds differently to teeth bleaching procedures. It is important to consult a dentist before starting any bleaching regiment. The bleaching process should only have to be done once every one to two years to maintain a healthy white shade.
Dr. Keith Dobracki is a private practice dentist in Ann Arbor and clinical professor at the Univ. of MI School of Dentistry
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