Teeth Whitening:  How to Make Your Teeth Shine

At Cooper Moss, we know that our patients want their pearly whites to be pearly white.  From television, to magazines, to that guy or gal down the hall who has the whitest teeth on the planet, there’s pressure to make your smile shine. But two unavoidable things work against us and cause our teeth to stain:  food and time.  We can’t escape these things but we can take steps to limit their effects.

Why do teeth turn yellow?

Healthy tooth enamel is white, but over time, enamel breaks-down and exposes the dentin.  Dentin is not white but has a yellow tint.  Unless you put your mouth in a sterile environment, there’s no escaping this fact of life.

Food also stains our teeth.  Especially delicious food!  Red wine, colored sauces, sodas, teas, coffees, and bright acidic fruit like mangoes can all exacerbate the problem.  We’re not saying “don’t eat these foods!” but be smart about how much and when you eat them.  First, don’t eat a lot of them.  Sugar and acids eat away at our teeth and cause a multitude of problems.  Second, wait about an hour to brush your teeth after you’ve eaten these foods.  Research shows that these foods soften your enamel, so brushing your teeth immediately after enjoying one of these treats may actually do more harm than good.

What to do –

First, make brushing and flossing a regular habit.  The American Dental Association recommends you brush two times a day for two minutes.  Pretty basic but it is surprising how many people we see who only brush once a day… or less!

Second, leverage your body’s natural defenses by increasing the amount of saliva in your mouth.  Hold some in and swish it around.  One of the benefits of saliva is it helps remove particles and colors from your teeth.  It also neutralizes sugars and acids to reduce their effects.

Third, have a nice glass of water after you eat or drink foods that are known to cause staining.  The water will help wash away the acids that stain your teeth.  Water will also encourage longer saliva production.  Two birds, one stone!

Fourth, think about the more formal whitening procedures.  Every month someone comes out with a new self-administered kit.  Over the last decade, some have become fairly effective.  Our recommendation, however, is that you avoid kits with hydrogen peroxide and/or abrasives.  Why?  Hydrogen peroxide removes enamel and less enamel is bad for your teeth and pulls the yellowish color of dentin to the forefront.  Likewise, “whitening” formulas that use abrasives cause enamel loss as you literally “scrub” it away.

At Cooper Moss, we offer both at-home whitening kits and in-office clinical treatments. They range in price and duration.  The at-home whitening kits involve a special tray that comfortably fits over your teeth.  The tray includes a prescription whitening gel which whitens your teeth as you wear the tray.  This process will usually take between two and four weeks.

The in-office procedures are more expensive and can cause a temporary increase in tooth sensitivity, but can “jump start” a more challenging whitening case.  Talk with us about what route is best for you.  Remember, most of the things that cause yellowing come from what you eat and what you do right after you eat.