How to Whiten Your Teeth

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Whiten Your Teeth
Whiten Your Teeth

How to Whiten Your Teeth. Tobacco, coffee, cavities, aging and drugs can stain teeth. Treatment for discolored teeth depends on the magnitude of the stain; remedies appear here in order of increasing intensity.

Brush and floss regularly to reduce or prevent stains.

Try whitening toothpastes. Though heavily advertised, these only partially whiten teeth and don't provide a complete remedy. Make sure the toothpaste has the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval and has been clinically proved to whiten teeth effectively. Very few whitening toothpastes have undergone any type of clinical trial, and ones that are too abrasive can damage teeth or make them very sensitive.

Get regular dental cleanings, which remove many food and tobacco stains. No amount of cleaning will remove the severe staining left by tetracycline or systemic disease because these pigments lie inside the tooth; you'll have to take more aggressive measures against these.

Consider the two options, in-office and at-home treatments, for bleaching your teeth. A dentist performs in-office treatments by coating the teeth with a bleaching agent, then using periodic flashes of light to activate the solution. Treatments last 30 to 60 minutes, and the complete procedure often requires several appointments. In at-home treatments, patients wear a mouth guard fitted with bleaching gel 2 hours a day for two weeks, depending on the severity of staining.

Think about getting veneers, which are custom-made shells bonded to the teeth with resins. This procedure often requires removing a small amount of tooth structure and is the most invasive, as well as the most expensive, treatment option.

Tips & Warnings

  • No bleaching method can permanently whiten teeth, and all require repeated treatments, especially if the factor that caused staining still exists.
  • All of the bleaching mechanisms described here can cause tooth sensitivity, usually temporary (lasting up to several weeks).
  • Never try to remove or scrape off stains with your fingernails or other sharp objects.
  • The ADA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration discourage use of over-the-counter bleaching kits, which can damage your gums.

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