A brighter whiter smile!

Jamaica Gleaner - - ORAL HEALTH FEATURE - Dr So­nia Har­ris Con­trib­u­tor

IN THE past, an­cient Ro­mans used hu­man urine to get whiter teeth. To­day, urine is no longer in use. There are now safer ways to get teeth whiter. As we get older, our teeth change colour. As part of the nat­u­ral age­ing process, they will no longer be as pearly white as in young chil­dren. In fact, they may ap­pear yel­low. Whiten­ing your teeth may ac­tu­ally cause you to look much younger. Start by vis­it­ing your den­tist if you would like to have your teeth whiter.

Your den­tist may ad­vise you on whether whiten­ers may be ef­fec­tive on your teeth. How­ever, some dis­coloura­tions may not be re­moved by whiten­ers; teeth that are yel­low­ish may re­spond best ver­sus teeth that are brown or bluish-grey. Teeth may ap­pear stained for many rea­sons and that will in­flu­ence what is used to get your teeth whiter.

Tooth-coloured filling ma­te­ri­als and metal-filling ma­te­ri­als do not re­spond to whiten­ing agents. In this sit­u­a­tion, your teeth may have to be cov­ered with crowns or ve­neers. If your tooth was dam­aged by trauma – per­haps you fell or was hit in the mouth – it may be­come dark­ened. Your den­tist may need to place a whiten­ing agent in­side your tooth, if this is the case.

You may choose to have your teeth whitened in the den­tal of­fice. A pro­tec­tive shield will be placed over your gum; this may be a rub­ber shield or gel. This shield is very im­por­tant to pre­vent dam­age to your gums and other soft tis­sues. A light may also be used dur­ing the process and you may need to at­tend for more than one visit. There is also an al­ter­nate way which al­lows you to take a cus­tom-made tray home, with ad­vice on how to use the whiten­ing agent over a pe­riod, usu­ally two weeks. This tray is very im­por­tant as it will be specif­i­cally de­signed to fit your mouth and re­duce pos­si­bil­ity of the whiten­ing agent dam­ag­ing your soft tis­sues.

Hav­ing your teeth pro­fes­sion­ally cleaned may also prove help­ful in re­mov­ing food stains, to­bacco stains and plaque bac­te­ria. You may need to ad­just your life­style if you re­ally want to keep your teeth white. Habits like smok­ing, cof­fee or tea drink­ing will stain your teeth. Once you have cleaned your teeth, you may also use a ‘whiten­ing’ tooth­paste.


All tooth­paste re­move sur­face stains from teeth, how­ever, those deemed ‘whiten­ing’ tooth­paste may have ad­di­tional abra­sive agents and chem­i­cals. You may get good re­sults, whiter teeth. How­ever, your teeth can be­come sen­si­tive when us­ing this tooth­paste.

Whiten­ing your teeth us­ing chem­i­cals may have side ef­fects. These in­clude chem­i­cal burns to your soft tis­sues and sen­si­tive teeth. The teeth may also ap­pear ‘over white’ and then dark af­ter a pe­riod of 30 days. The most com­mon side ef­fect is sen­si­tive teeth. The sen­si­tiv­ity may be no­ticed dur­ing the whiten­ing process or one to three days af­ter com­ple­tion. Your teeth may be­come sen­si­tive to cold air when you speak and even when you drink cold or hot bev­er­ages. Once you ex­pe­ri­ence any sen­si­tiv­ity – the use of the agent should be dis­con­tin­ued and your den­tist in­formed.

Teeth whiten­ing is not rec­om­mended for chil­dren un­der 16 years and preg­nant and lac­tat­ing women.

There is hope if you have be­come con­scious of your teeth chang­ing colour. You can boost your con­fi­dence by whiten­ing your teeth. Give your­self a brighter, whiter smile!

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