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Self-conscious about your smile? You are not alone! According to the American Association of Orthodontists, 48% of Americans surveyed say they’ve untagged themselves on social media because they hated their smile.
Why do some people hate their smiles? It might be about tooth discoloration. The good news is, a number of options exist that can remove teeth stains.
Before you begin removing teeth stains, you should determine what you’re doing to cause the discoloration. Think about it: Why bother going through the expense and effort to brighten your smile, for you to only re-stain your teeth?
What’s Staining Your Teeth?
Dental professionals typically consider tooth-staining factors as intrinsic and extrinsic. Here’s the difference between them:
Intrinsic stains occur inside the teeth, and they are caused by such things like medications, injuries, genetics, age, tooth decay, even too much fluoride. The latter causes a rare condition called fluorosis which occurs in children 8 and younger who are exposed to too much fluoride (Source: CDC).
Extrinsic stains are things you do that stain your teeth, like eating certain foods, beverages and alcohol. Cigarette smoking can be an intrinsic and extrinsic factor, because science shows smoking contributes to tooth decay.
Here’s the general rule for food and beverages: If it will stain a tablecloth, it will stain your teeth. With that said, there are some not-so-obvious “hidden” foods that are teeth stainers like apples and potatoes. It’s true: The chemicals that cause these foods to turn brown when they are cut open or ripen can stain teeth.
The good news is, you can minimize stains by rinsing or brushing your teeth within 20 to 30 minutes of eating teeth-staining foods.
Removing Dental Stains and Whitening Teeth Options
Over-the-counter teeth whiteners: The least expensive and most widely available way to whiten your teeth is over-the-counter peroxide-free teeth whitening gel or paste. To use this type of teeth whitener, first brush your teeth as you normally do. Next, dry your teeth with a clean, soft, dry cloth. Pull your lips away from your teeth and brush the tooth whitening formula directly onto your teeth. Let it dry for several seconds. Avoid eating or drinking anything for a minimum of 30 minutes. Look for a formula that is safe for everyday use and does not cause teeth sensitivity.
Bonus tip: Tooth whitening gel can help you maintain a bright smile even after professional whitening, which we explain next.
Professional whitening: You can get your teeth professionally whitened two ways. One is an in-office procedure and the other is a dentist prescribed at-home kit.
For the in-office procedure, which takes about 1 to 2 hours, your dentist applies a high concentration of a teeth whitening agent — typically a peroxide — to your teeth and “cures” it with a special light. Your dentist will use a device to pull and hold your lips away from your teeth, so they stay dry during the procedure. Some people report “zaps” of tooth sensitivity during and after the procedure. Depending on the discoloration of your teeth and your whitening goals will determine whether you need one or more treatments.
Although in-office tooth whitening is the most expensive way to remove tooth stains, it is the most effective. You might want to use a tooth whitening gel periodically after investing your time and money to brighten your smile!
An alternative to in-office whitening is professional at-home teeth whitening kit that uses custom-fit dental trays. After taking a mold of your teeth, your dentist will send it to a lab, which will create trays to fit over your teeth. Your home teeth whitening kit will include a set of needleless syringes filled with the whitening agent (peroxide). You fill the trays with the whitener, place them over your teeth and leave them in for the recommended amount of time — at least 1 hour.
Your dentist might advise starting with shorter periods if you have teeth sensitivity issues.
The Best Way to Remove Teeth Stains Is…
There’s not one way. Removing stains from your teeth is a multi-pronged approach.
First, identify teeth-staining factors (intrinsic and extrinsic). Then, either eliminate those factors, or increase your brushing and rinsing habits to minimize the stains.
Second, Speak with your dentist to ensure you have no underlying conditions that could prevent you from whitening your teeth. Teeth whitening can aggravate cavities, gum disease, and other dental issues.
Third, try an at-home teeth whitening gel. It’s less expensive and easier to tolerate than professional teeth whitening. If you aren’t satisfied with the results, talk to your dentist about professional whitening.
Fourth, discuss in-office procedures and prescription methods for whitening your teeth with your dentist.
Last, incorporate smile brightening toothpaste, mouthwashes and gels into your regular oral care routine!