Tooth Whitening Strips

whiteningA great smile with straight, healthy teeth can be ruined by a mouthful of stained or discolored ones. Unsightly dental stains can be caused by everything from coffee to chewing tobacco. Some stains indicate that teeth have been worn down and need a one-two punch of whitening and regular dental care. Regardless of what caused the stains, tooth whitening strips can be an effective way to restore an otherwise beautiful smile to its full potential.

Dental Whitening: A Short History
Evidence suggests that tooth whitening began as early as 3000 B.C. when people chewed sticks or twigs to remove the build up from the teeth and brighten the smile. Around 1000 B.C. Egyptians used ground pumice stone and vinegar to bleach their smiles. By the 1600s, people went to barbers for a process that included filing down the teeth and then bleaching them with an acid solution.
In the 1980s, dentists began to experiment with ways to keep peroxide–then used as an antiseptic to heal inflamed gums–on the teeth longer. When they realized that a peroxide gel in a tray would solve their problems, dentists also discovered that the gel whitened their patients’ teeth.
Since then, dentists have refined the peroxide tray method to create whiter smiles quicker and with less cost. As tooth whitening has become more common, people have demanded more affordable systems that can be worn without the care of a dentist. From this demand came a wide variety of manufacturers who began to mass-market disposable tooth bleaching kits. Today, these kits can be found on the shelves of big box retailers, grocery stores, and pharmacies nationwide.

Causes of Tooth Stain

The top causes of discoloration include food and drinks that have deep color pigmentation. in any food, the deeper or more intense the color, the more likely it will stain teeth. Teas, wines, soft drinks, sports drinks, berries, and strongly-colored candies have the most potential to create stains. Even a white wine can damage teeth; studies have shown that teeth were more susceptible to later staining when they were coated in a white wine.

Acidic foods like tomato sauce, curries, and orange juice can weaken the tooth’s enamel and allow stains to attach. Habitual coffee drinkers, smokers, or users of chewing tobacco will also see stains form as a result of their habits.

Food and drinks aren’t always to blame for stains. Poor dental care can cause plaque to build up on teeth and discolor them. Daily brushing and flossing and regular dental checkups can eliminate this source of staining.

Tooth Whitening Strip Options

A fresher, brighter smile is just a trip to the store away for most adults. Over-the-counter whitening systems include strips that are placed on the top and bottom teeth and worn for a specific amount of time that varies from twenty minutes to overnight. More expensive kits can whiten teeth in just a few days; more affordable kits take up to two weeks for similar results.

Whitening strips are a convenient way to get a brighter smile without another trip to the dentist. For those with sensitive teeth, purchase kits with low amounts of hydrogen peroxide; lower levels of peroxide are found in kits that take longer to complete treatment. Choosing a product with an American Dental Association (ADA) seal ensures that it has met standards of safety and effectiveness. When choosing a kit, make sure to read the directions carefully, as the directions can stain clothing and fabrics.

There are a few groups of people who should approach this process with caution. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid starting a tooth whitening strip program as studies have not shown the exact effects of peroxide use on babies. People with fillings, gum disease, crowns, or worn tooth enamel should consult a dentist before beginning any whitening system.

For children who already have their permanent teeth, whitening strips are a great option to provide a beautiful, clean-looking smile. For children who do not have all of their adult teeth, using these strips may caused uneven whitening and further discoloration.

How to Keep a Whiter Smile

Once the whitening treatment has been completed, it is important to keep that new smile bright. For both adults and children using whitening strips, a proper dental routine that includes flossing and brushing should be in place. Continued use of a whitening toothpaste and avoidance of stain-causing foods will elongate the time that teeth stay fresh and white. Occasionally, touch-ups of additional whitening strips will need to be used to maintain the desired level of tooth brightness.