You’ve endured months or years of orthodontic treatment. You wore your elastics, and actually took the time to use the dreaded floss threader to keep those teeth and gums healthy throughout treatment.
Now the time has come to get your brackets and archwires removed, or in the case of Invisalign, you’ve completed your final series of aligners. What now?
My patients – particularly the adults – often inquire about teeth whitening around this time. Many view it as the capstone to orthodontic treatment. We don’t sell in-office or take-home teeth whitening treatments because we don’t want to impose on the services offered by dentists. But we’re always happy to offer some recommendations to you if you’re interested in the treatment. You have a number of choices, and each has its own unique considerations.
I typically recommend Crest Whitestrips, which are highly effective at removing stains from teeth. Crest makes a variety of Whitestrips products that target everyone from people with sensitive teeth, to those who need a quick fix.
Over-the-counter products can be good if your teeth aren’t severely stained, as they typically can lighten your teeth by a few shades.
Take home teeth whitening options purchased through your dentist’s office may offer more effective whitening than over-the-counter treatments. They may come in strip form, or as a gel that you place into customized or preformed trays that fit over your teeth while you do the treatments.
Different products contain varying levels of whitening solution – typically carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide – that may work faster, the higher the percentage of the solution. It doesn’t matter which solution you choose, as both will get your teeth whiter.
“A study published in Journal of the American Dental Association showed that while carbamide peroxide appeared to produce slightly more dramatic results at first, ultimately products containing equivalent amounts of carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide produced exactly the same results,” according to information posted on Opalescense.com, which is a teeth whitening brand.
The key to success with any over-the-counter or take-home options is not to overdo it. Follow the instructions, and be patient. You’ll get the results you seek.
There are numerous professional brands of in-office teeth bleaching and whitening treatments. Some are placed on your teeth and left to sit for a period of time, while others are activated using a UV light and don’t remain on the teeth as long. There are options that are done in a single office visit, and some that are offered over several sessions to achieve the best results.
Teeth whitening treatments offered in a dental office tend to cost a bit more, but they render fast, beautiful results that leave your teeth anywhere from seven to 15 shades lighter. You also can feel comfortable knowing that you’re in a professional’s care throughout the treatment process.
Those who opt for this whitening method might also inquire about a take-home version to help prolong the treatment’s positive effects.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and long before there were professional and over-the-counter whitening agents, resourceful people found that a number common items around the house could do wonders to whiten teeth.
- Baking soda – besides making teeth whiter, some studies have shown that toothpastes with baking soda are more effective at removing plaque than those without.
- Oil pulling – swish a tablespoon of organic coconut oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes for a healthier mouth and whiter teeth
- Food grade hydrogen peroxide – while it certainly doesn’t taste good, swishing this around in your mouth for about one minute can offer whitening benefits
- Banana peel – gently rub the inside of the peel on your teeth one to two times daily
- Sonic tooth brushes – this technology hasn’t been around as long as the previously mentioned remedies, but these high-powered brushes help break up and remove stains better than manual tooth brushes, which makes them worth mentioning
The Downside and Downright Dangers of Overuse
If a little is good, a lot is better, right? Not always. You need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, or fear the dreaded “zingers.” This is the term dentists often use to describe the shooting pains caused by extreme tooth sensitivity. While this doesn’t happen to everyone, you’ll want to take steps to ensure you aren’t among the unlucky ones who experience this discomfort.
Over-whitening can lead to gum sensitivity, uneven whitening and even internal damage if the chemical used to whiten the teeth finds its way into a cavity or cracked tooth.
Foods that Stain Teeth
You can help keep stains at bay by avoiding certain foods that are known to stain teeth, such as:
- Wine- red and white
- Balsamic vinegar
- Cranberry juice
- Sauces- soy, tomato and curry
- Sweet treats with dark coloring agents
- Sports drinks – this is due to their acid levels, which soften enamel and pave the way for staining
- Pickles and ketchup – like sports drinks, these acidic foods open pores in tooth enamel
Foods That Whiten Teeth
There’s a popular book called “Eat This, Not That,” and that’s what I think of when I think about prolonging the beneficial effects of teeth whitening treatments. To do so, incorporate more of the following foods into your diet instead of the ones mentioned above:
- Apples, pears, cauliflower, cucumbers, celery and guavas – all of these increase saliva production, which helps flush away stains
- Cheese – it protects your teeth from the acids in the mouth with his protein, phosphorus and calcium
- Shiitake mushrooms – they inhibit oral bacteria growth
- Pineapple – it’s a natural stain remover
- Onions – as strange as it may sound, they reduce decay-causing bacteria
- Basil – a natural antibiotic that reduces oral bacteria
- Strawberries – they contain malic acid, so you can smash them and rub them on your teeth, then rinse, brush and floss for some natural whitening benefits
If you choose to whiten your teeth after orthodontic treatment, we wish you results that you’re happy with. Feel free to ask us if you have questions or would like a recommendation. We’re here to help!