Discolored teeth can add years to your face. But you don’t have to go around with a dingy smile.
“As we age the amount of enamel [gets] thinner and what [shows] through is usually darker dentin, resulting in a more grayish appearance,” says Dr. Chiann Fan Gibson. This discoloration can be exacerbated by a history of taking certain medications, smoking cigarettes, or drinking coffee, tea, and soda. Fortunately, there are many ways to whiten your teeth.
The least expensive way is with over-the-counter whitening strips, which remove surface stains. For a more significant change than what a drugstore product can provide, dental professionals offer several options. A prescription-strength whitening gel combined with take-home trays (universal or custom fitted) allow patients to bleach their teeth at home. Get your teeth as white as you want them to be and then use the gel and trays to keep them white with regular touch-ups.
In-office whitening treatments are also an option. “If a person needs an immediate brightening or change to their teeth for a special occasion, then the in-office whitening procedure is the best choice,” Dr. Gibson says. Performed under the supervision of a dentist, it entails polishing the teeth, coating them with a hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide bleaching agent, and using a curing light or laser to activate the peroxide. It costs more than other options ($450 to $650) and takes a few hours. It will, however, last about a year.
Teeth whitening of all types can heighten teeth sensitivity, however. Though that problem can usually be controlled by whitening less often, lowering the percentage of hydrogen peroxide in the gel, and/or using a toothpaste specifically for sensitive teeth, those remedies don’t work for everyone. And Dr. Gibson says that if you continue “to whiten without paying attention to the sensitivities and gum tissue health, it can be damaging over time or hurtful to the soft tissues.” Painful symptoms are temporary and dissipate when whitening is halted and healing occurs.
One final note: Discolored teeth can affect your self-confidence, but they can also be a sign of an underlying dental health issue. It is essential to visit a dentist regularly to confirm that your teeth are healthy.