There are lots of reasons you might want to whiten your teeth. Maybe there’s a special event coming up. Maybe you want the boost of confidence that can come from brighter smile.
But as with most things, moderation is key.
After all, a blinding white smile isn’t the norm. It’s natural for teeth to have some color – and to darken a bit with age (yet another reason some opt for whitening). And going overboard with home bleaching does have its downsides.
For instance, a study published late last year in the Australian Dental Journal found that repeatedly whitening teeth at home may contribute to oxidative stress – a state in which more free radicals are produced than the body can counteract or detox. Left unchecked, it ultimately paves the way for a wide range of health problems, from neurodegenerative diseases to cancer.
For this study, participants were given a 9% hydrogen peroxide gel to use every night for two weeks, 30 minutes each night. Blood samples were taken at the beginning and end of the test period to evaluate for redox status. All redox measures were significantly higher at the end of the study.
At-home bleaching revealed the potential to disturb oxidant–antioxidant balance and induce oxidative stress. Its clinical relevance is unfavourable and potential side-effects of at-home bleaching should be considered.
This is one reason why smile whitening is usually best done under a dentist’s care. Not only can we oversee safety; we can make sure you get a good aesthetic result, too – all teeth matching in color and not so white that they clash with your natural complexion.
That said, there are things you can do at home to keep your teeth naturally bright, such as oil pulling with coconut oil or using activated charcoal. Nutrient-dense foods high in malic acid – foods like strawberries, apples, and broccoli – may also help reduce stains on your teeth (not to mention help counteract chronic inflammation, due to their antioxidant content, as well).
Suffice it to say, it can also help to go easy on drinks that tend to stain teeth and erode dental enamel – teas, coffees, soft drinks, and wine (white and red alike).
There are even a few tricks you can use to make your smile look brighter than it is, even if you don’t whiten your teeth at all. If you wear lipstick, for instance, choose a color that contains blue tones. These brighten the smile, while red and orange tones can make teeth look more yellow.
Using a bronzer on your face can also create the effect of a brighter smile.
And if you do opt for whitening of any kind, keep in mind that it’s only going to work on your natural teeth. Tooth-colored fillings, ceramic crowns, implants, partials – these will remain their same color. Accounting for these is yet another reason why, if you’re thinking of whitening, it’s a good idea to have a dental consultation first – to make sure everything blends nicely and that the smile you get is the one you want and will love.