No one wants a smile showing discolored, dingy, or yellowish teeth. Our smile is the first thing people notice when they meet us. In fact, there is a strong correlation between our self-esteem and having whiter teeth. Anyone considering whitening their teeth needs to discuss the risks with their dentist. Those risks include sensitivity and damage to the surface and roots of the teeth. Then there is the danger of an unhealthy obsession with teeth whitening, known as bleachorexia.
Bleachorexia is an addictive disorder
Bleachorexia sufferers have a disorder that is similar to anorexia or bulimia. Even though the person’s teeth are already white, they are never white enough. Consequently, the afflicted person impulsively uses teeth whiteners in an unhealthy effort to get even whiter teeth. The person uses an abundance of over-the-counter whitening products and repeatedly requests additional dental whitening procedures.
Dangers of compulsive and excessive teeth whitening include:
- teeth turning an unnatural shade or becoming translucent
- eroding of enamel and undermining the teeth structure and compromising the person’s overall dental health
- increased teeth sensitivity
- receding gums and inflammation of the soft tissue in the mouth
- damage to the teeth resulting in the need for dental crowns or veneers
So, bleachorexia comes under the category of addictive behavior and sufferers need to seek medical counseling.
Causes of Teeth Discoloration
For everyone else, though, there are safe and effective methods for whitening teeth. It is normal for teeth to become darker or more yellow over time. Outer discoloration occurs as stains from food with dyes and tobacco use dull the natural whiteness. That external (or extrinsic) discoloration is best treated with whitening toothpastes.
Internal (or intrinsic) discoloration can be caused by aging, illness, medication, infection, or trauma. The most effective treatment for intrinsic discoloration is professional bleaching, which can restore the teeth to a normal level of whiteness.
Your Options in Teeth Whitening
Teeth whitening options include:
1. Whitening treatments and procedures administered by a dentist. This treatment usually works quickly and lasts longer, because the dentist uses a stronger bleaching agent, which is entirely safe. The dentist typically employs carbamide peroxide to restore the tooth’s color with a chemical reaction. The treatment takes about an hour and is strongly recommended for patients with receding gums or other periodontal problems.
2. Whitening kits dispensed by your dentist for home use, like TenderCare Dental’s Free Teeth Whitening for Life program. The dentist can provide custom-fit devices and gels to augment and maintain the in-office whitening treatment. Along with other commitments, dispensing of the whitening kits requires a thorough dental exam with x-rays, a cleaning session, as well as a clean bill of dental health.
3. Self-administered over-the-counter treatments. Over-the-counter products can help give you whiter teeth. However, they are less effective and contain weaker whitening agents. For teeth that are intrinsically discolored, whitening toothpastes don’t have the more powerful whitening ingredients used by the dentist. However, whitening strips do contain a much smaller amount of whitening agents, but require a commitment for daily wear over a period of weeks.
Finally, there are some homemade methods used to whiten teeth. They include activated charcoal, which can remove stains, but is so abrasive that its application can damage tooth enamel. Always consult with a dentist before going down the self-administered path.