Regular consumption of food and beverages causes our teeth to lose their brilliant white. This usually does not look very nice and means that we no longer want to show our smile so much. Because white teeth stand for health, beauty and success - at least that's what most people think. For this reason, bleaching products have been experiencing real hype for a long time. Here you can find out what the over-the-counter remedies are all about and which common home remedies are supposed to be able to whiten our teeth.
The bad news first: Not only our real teeth can discolour, but also artificial teeth and dental fillings made of plastic. In addition, there are people who basically have yellower teeth than others - it has to do with their genes. Because the color of the teeth is determined by nature, just like their development with increasing age. Thus, we have no direct influence on how transparent and thick the enamel is. Unfortunately, these two factors also determine the color of our teeth. Unfortunately, these are not all the reasons that cause discolouration. The best known include:
NicotineRegardless of whether you use tobacco products regularly or only occasionally - smoking contributes significantly to the fact that our teeth discolour. In addition, the nicotine it contains is harmful to our (dental) health. Because the fact is that the consumption of tobacco promotes bad breath and tooth decay.
Coffee, tea and red wineEven if you count them among the stimulants, they still cause unsightly tooth discoloration due to the finest color particles that are deposited on the tooth surface and penetrate the tooth enamel - so that our teeth discolor and ordinary toothpaste can no longer counteract it.
Poor oral hygiene From an early age we learn to brush our teeth at least twice a day. And there is a good reason for that, because those who remove plaque and leftovers from their teeth insufficiently or only irregularly promote plaque and tartar - both factors that also promote tooth discoloration and bad breath.
Mouthwashes There are special mouthwashes with ingredients such as chlorhexidine, which help with gingivitis or other health problems in the mouth (e.g. sore throat, difficulty swallowing). Unfortunately, they have the disadvantage that they stain our teeth yellowish. For this reason, daily use is not recommended.
MedicationsOther medications can also contribute to the discoloration of our teeth. For example, the regular intake of antibiotics containing tetracyclines can promote tooth discoloration, which is irreversible. Especially when the teeth are still “developing” – i.e. in children under the age of eight.
The good news, however, is that there are a variety of ways you can prevent or even reduce tooth discoloration. You can find out here which natural and chemical aids are good - or not.
In the past, so-called bleaching agents could only be purchased in pharmacies, but nowadays there are various products for whitening teeth in every drugstore and via mail order on the Internet. There are whitening strips and pre-made splints that are filled with whitening gel, whitening pens and whitening powder as well as whitening toothpaste. This raises the question of what the individual products are really good for and how the methods differ. An attempt at an explanation follows.
How does bleaching work?
Before you use any of the products mentioned, you should first of all know what happens to your teeth when bleaching: All bleaching products contain carbamide peroxide - an active ingredient made up of carbamide (a transparent carrier gel that is tasteless) and hydrogen peroxide (which whitens teeth power) composed. By applying it to the tooth surface, the active substance can penetrate the tooth enamel and release oxygen radicals, which in turn break down the pigments contained in the tooth substance by chemically changing them. In other words, the teeth are lightened by oxidation and are therefore whiter.
What bleaching methods are there?
1. Whitening strips
So-called bleaching strips offer a method of whitening teeth that is well known from radio and television. First and foremost, it is important for you to know that the strips should only be used after a professional tooth cleaning. Otherwise, this whitening method will not work. The operation is very simple: The strips are glued to the teeth and gently pressed as soon as they are in the right position - the gums should not be touched. After the recommended exposure time, the strips are removed and the teeth are thoroughly cleaned. Disadvantages of this method are that the foils often do not fit over all teeth and the spaces between the teeth are not brightened.
In contrast to bleaching at the dentist with a custom-made splint, with this method you get a prefabricated splint delivered to your home, which is filled with gel and then inserted. Depending on what is written on the packaging, you should definitely stick to the recommended exposure time. Otherwise you will not get the desired result. With this method, it is particularly important that you carry out the treatment carefully, do not touch the gums and lips with the whitening gel and repeat the process several times - until your teeth are whitened. The result is usually quite satisfactory, but not of very long duration.
Teeth whitening sticks are also being touted for use at home. The bleaching agent it contains is applied to the teeth using a thin brush – but the trick is to leave your mouth open until the exposure time has been reached, without touching your lips with the pen. The teeth and interdental spaces must then be thoroughly cleaned again. The advantage here is clearly the quick and inexpensive application, but the desired result is a long time coming. In addition, the whitened teeth do not stay white for long, so the method has to be repeated more often.
4. Bleaching powder Bleaching with activated charcoal is particularly popular at the moment. The black powder is used like an ordinary toothpaste and should not only remove dirt from the teeth, but also whiten them. That's the theory, in practice it also works initially, but dentists warn against this method. Because activated charcoal acts like a kind of sandpaper and roughens the teeth over time or wears away the enamel. Conversely, the teeth can discolor faster as a result - and that would not be the point. Therefore, this method of permanently whitening teeth is not particularly recommended.
5. Bleaching ToothpasteBy far the easiest and cheapest way to whiten your teeth at home is with whitening toothpaste. The advantage is that the application is no different from ordinary brushing, but the result is not very promising. On the one hand, because the teeth are only cleaned superficially, on the other hand, it is not possible to whiten teeth that are naturally yellower using whitening toothpaste. The active ingredients contained therein are too small for a noticeable white effect. Apart from that, the toothpaste often contains so-called abrasive ingredients that wear down the enamel over the long term.
No matter which product you choose at the end of the day: Before you try a bleaching method at home, you should have your teeth checked thoroughly. Only a dentist can judge whether your teeth are actually suitable for bleaching. He examines your teeth for tooth decay, exposed tooth necks and gum problems - these factors speak against treatment with bleaching agents. To understand: If your teeth are not healthy, the active ingredient contained in the bleaching products can penetrate deep into the tooth and damage it from the inside. In addition, only a specialist doctor can tell at first glance whether the tooth discoloration is superficial or is caused by the tooth itself. Because you can only remove the external discoloration yourself, while the internal ones can only be treated professionally by a dentist.
Furthermore, when choosing a product, you should make sure that none of the selected methods contain too much hydrogen peroxide - a low dose of no more than 0.1 percent is recommended here. Only dentists work with a higher dosage and there is a reason for that: If a bleaching product contains too much peroxide, unpleasant side effects such as irritated or even burned gums can occur. If, on the other hand, your teeth are sensitive to cold and heat after the treatment, this is usually normal and will subside after a few hours. If your teeth are healthy and free of caries, most bleaching methods are harmless - but going to the dentist is essential if you want to be on the safe side.
As already mentioned at the beginning, dental fillings and dentures cannot really be bleached at the same time. In other words: if you whiten your teeth, you will not achieve an even whitening result. Therefore, you should think carefully beforehand whether you want to lend a hand and risk unsightly color effects - or whether you prefer to visit a dentist. He works with highly concentrated whitening agents and uses a bleaching lamp or a soft laser so that tooth fillings and dentures are also bleached. Of course, the professional method costs a lot more, but it only requires one application and lasts much longer. In any case, find out in advance about the best method for your teeth.
Of course, there are also numerous home remedies advertised on the Internet that are said to be able to whiten our teeth. One of them is baking powder or baking soda: Diluted with water, the resulting paste should be applied to the teeth and spread with a toothbrush. In this case, too, the powder acts like sandpaper – although the teeth are initially whitened, they wear down in the long term, so that the enamel cracks and color pigments are deposited in it. Our conclusion is therefore: hands off baking soda!
Fruit acid (e.g. in lemon juice) is also a recommended home remedy for bleaching. Here, too, the effect is very effective - in the long run, however, your teeth will be damaged in the same way, so that the initial success turns into the opposite. The bottom line is that the discoloration of the teeth is even worse than before the application. For this reason, acidic home remedies or drinks are anything but suitable for whitening your teeth. The same applies to salt, which is often used for bleaching.
We have already given you a variety of reasons why our teeth become yellower over time. However, since most discolorations are only superficial, it is advisable to use an electric toothbrush. The rotating brushes remove deposits from your teeth gently and evenly, so that your teeth do not darken in the first place. In the end, you have to decide for yourself whether you decide on a classic electric toothbrush with round attachments or on a modern sonic toothbrush. In any case, one thing is certain: the sooner you switch, the longer you will keep your natural white teeth. This also applies to children, who at a young age still have significantly whiter teeth than adults. Here, too, there are electric toothbrushes for kids from the age of three, who can be taught to properly care for their teeth at an early age.
Finally, it is definitely better for your teeth if you stop smoking or at least reduce it - the same applies to the consumption of coffee. Using more milk may result in your teeth not being stained quite as badly. If you don't want to do without it entirely, it is at least advisable not to brush your teeth immediately after drinking, as the acid it contains dissolves the minerals from the tooth surface and thus makes teeth vulnerable. It is advisable not to brush your teeth until half an hour later. The same applies to fruits, juices, red wine and soft drinks. Our saliva needs a head start, so to speak, to neutralize the acids. Before that, the teeth are particularly sensitive and can be damaged. However, if you stick to the 30 minutes, the temporarily changed pH value in the mouth will be back to normal.
How does a dentist feel about the over-the-counter products? dr Torsten Wegner from the Hamburger Zahn-Zentrum St. Georg, a group practice for dentistry and orthodontics, answered the star's questions on the subject:
Is it true that only healthy teeth can be bleached? What requirements does a patient have to meet in order for their teeth to be professionally whitened?
It is true that only healthy teeth can be whitened. By this we mean that the teeth must be free of caries or leaking fillings and leaking crown edges. Furthermore, the gums should also not show any inflammation. This is important for the following reason: gels containing peroxides are used for lightening. Peroxides give off oxygen radicals, which like to quickly form other compounds. When whitening, we use this reactivity to break down the ring structures of color molecules, making teeth whiter. When peroxide gel penetrates leaking fillings, similar reactions can take place in the tooth, which can lead to painful hypersensitivity. The situation is similar with inflamed gums. Despite the careful covering of the gum line before each professional whitening, reactions between the peroxide gels and the sore gums can occur.
Does bleaching involve any risks and if so, what are they?
There are no risks in terms of damaging changes to the tooth surfaces with professional teeth whitening. The use of high-percentage peroxides in professional tooth whitening is particularly important to protect the soft tissue (gums / tongue and cheek tissue) against chemical burns. Covering these areas is a particularly important measure and must be carried out conscientiously. Hypersensitivity to the teeth can occur during and after teeth whitening, which usually disappears within the first 24 hours after teeth whitening. These hypersensitivities arise from the fact that the teeth slowly dry out during tooth whitening. After teeth whitening, the teeth need a certain amount of time until they are moistened again by the saliva. During this time, the teeth are overly sensitive. Since this problem is well known, the manufacturers of professional whitening systems have developed gels that act quickly against these hypersensitivities. These are given to our patients.
What do you think of over-the-counter bleaching products (gel, foils, splints, powders, etc.)? Which product do you think is good or less suitable for home use?
Unfortunately, I can only conclude from negative reports from our patients that there are obviously no over-the-counter products that can compete with professional whitening materials. First of all, it should be noted that the legislator has set the maximum peroxide concentration for over-the-counter products at ten percent. This means that the immediate effectiveness of over-the-counter products is limited. In comparison, concentrations of over 30 percent are used for professional whitening in practice. Furthermore, foils and splints often do not fit precisely enough to bring or hold these low-percentage whitening agents to the site of action. We obtain the whitening gels for the so-called take-home bleaching from the manufacturers of our in-office products. Therefore, I am of the opinion that professional whitening in the dental practice is the better choice in terms of cost-benefit ratio. My recommendation is to see professional teeth whitening as a long-term investment in beautiful bright teeth.
That would then look like this:
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