“How much emphasis do we put on our skincare routines? Do the same thing with your teeth.”
When it comes to teeth whitening, there are a number of treatments available to get your pearly whites in order. Whether you’ve upped your caffeine intake recently (no judgement), or have spent *way* too much time staring at your Zoom reflection, the appeal of at-home whitening treatments is hard to deny. Here’s the catch: with many of us unable to make regular dentist appointments, experimenting with whitening treatments might actually be doing your teeth more harm than good. The good news? Solutions exist. Ahead, we spoke to the experts to learn more.
A thorough cleaning is essential
If it’s been over a year since your last visit to the dentist, consider booking an appointment before whitening your smile. “We’ve had people that haven’t been in for 14 months, some even longer,” says Dr. Andrea Gelinas, dentist and owner of Gelinas Dental Studio. Thanks to increased time at home during a tremendously stressful time, brushing and flossing habits have gone by the wayside and teeth grinding is at an all-time high. The result: increased gum recession, microscopic chips in the teeth due to clenching, and sensitivity — sensitivity which is often exacerbated by whitening treatments. “Our enamel is the hardest thing that we have in our body, it’s harder than our bones. But areas where you’ve had a little bit of recession, that’s not enamel anymore — that’s the root surface of your tooth. If you were to put any kind of at-home whitening agent on an area where you have gum recession, you’re going to be climbing the walls, it’s so painful,” she says. “If you’ve skipped your last check-up, you could be creating a much more expensive and involved problem in an effort to whiten your teeth.”
Consider the delivery method
“When you come into the office for whitening, it’s usually a two-hour appointment,” says Dr. Gelinas. “We take impressions, we take pre-op photos and we isolate all of your gum tissue — that way, when we’re putting the whitening agent on your tooth, it is only going on enamel.” By avoiding the gumline and areas where you may potentially have recession, you’re likely to avoid sensitivity issues.
If in-office whitening isn’t in the cards for you anytime soon and you’re bent on going a few shades brighter, there are options specifically designed to help mitigate sensitivity. Take, for instance, Crest Whitening Emulsions, a new leave-on whitening treatment 20 years in the making. “One of the challenges with whitening is that there’s always been a trade-off. With high concentrations of peroxide, you get sensitivity,” says Sherrie Kincardine, senior scientist at P&G. “The main reason for sensitivity is that [whitening] can dehydrate the teeth.” Most whitening systems rely on hydrogen peroxide (the most commonly used bleaching agent), which pulls water out of the teeth due to the hydrogen bonding process . The new formula has a water-resistant base which forms an occlusive barrier over your teeth, allowing for a whiter smile minus the sensitivity. It’s also no-rinse, so you don’t have to worry about leaving the product on for too long (a common culprit of tooth sensitivity). “A lot of the products that are out there today are water soluble. So even though they might have a high concentration of peroxide, as soon as you apply them to your teeth and close your mouth, they rub off,” says Kincardine. “Contact time is a critical factor in determining whether or not a product is actually going to work. So if you put something on your teeth, and then it immediately rubs off, there’s not enough time for that peroxide to actually diffuse to the stains.” Plus, a stay-put formula is less likely to travel to your gum line and cause additional discomfort — a double win.
Build better habits
Sure, having fabulously white teeth is a treat, but it’s important to recognize that a bright smile isn’t a blanket solution for dental issues. Taking proper care of your teeth is the first step to a better-looking smile. “At home, really start thinking about the element of health and beauty,” says Dr. Gelinas. “How much emphasis do we put on our skincare routines? Do the same thing with your teeth. Actually spend two minutes brushing. Actually floss and use a tongue scraper. Get everything super healthy first.” She recommends investing in an electric toothbrush and nabbing Dr.Tung’s floss, which includes cardamom, a natural anti-inflammatory, and expands with moisture to clean more surface area. “And if you’re really feeling super stressed about it, throw on a red lipstick that has a blue undertone, and that instantly will make your teeth look whiter,” she says. “Re-establish healthy habits, because that is ultimately what is going to make everything beam.”
“If you're really feeling super stressed about it, throw on a red lipstick that has a blue undertone, and that instantly will make your teeth look whiter.”
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