Get a Brighter Smile for the New Year

| February 1, 2011

Everyone wants a great smile, but not everyone is blessed with naturally straight, pearly white teeth. Today, there is an array of solutions for these dental issues, from braces, to bleaching, to veneers.

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A Healthy Smile

The most important thing — whether your teeth are as white as you want them or not — is for your smile to be healthy. Taking care of your smile is pretty simple, and can be broken down into five steps: brushing, flossing, eating right, rinsing, and visiting the dentist. Doing these things will reduce your risk for tooth decay and gum disease. In fact, this should be the first thing to consider before even thinking about a brighter smile.

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The Science Behind the Stains

When we are born, most of us start out with teeth that sparkle. However, over the course of our lives, our teeth break down from the effects of chewing, acid, and sugar. During routine chewing, explains WebMD.com, dentin remains intact while millions of micro-cracks occur in the enamel. These cracks eventually fill up with debris and stains and cause teeth to develop a dull appearance. Luckily there are things we can do to help keep our smile bright —  and knowing what stains them is one way.

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Teeth Staining Culprits

It’s important to know what can make our teeth become stained. You might not suspect some of these culprits, and even the simplest of things can cause problems for your pearly whites. There are two types of tooth stains: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic stains are those that appear on the surface of the teeth as a result of exposure to foods, tobacco, and routine wear and tear. These are the kinds that can be removed with some effort. Intrinsic stains, on the other hand, are those that form on the interior of the tooth. These are a result of trauma, aging, and some chemicals.

Obviously, advocates of bright smiles will tell you the worst thing you can do is smoke, since smoking causes deep stains and yellowing. So, skip the cigarettes. As mentioned before, food is a top culprit and a preventable stain. Here’s a valuable tip from dentists: Anything that can stain a white cotton T-shirt can stain teeth. So think before you take your next sip or bite.

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When to Seek Professional Help

Luckily, nowadays, almost all stains can be removed. Dentists say that trays and strips are the most effective at-home choices for dramatic whitening. However, they also suggest that you visit with your dentist before making a decision on how to whiten. Usually, going straight to your dentist will be the most effective, quickest, and ultimately most cost-effective solution in the end. Knowing when to seek your dentist’s help is important for keeping your smile bright, so if you haven’t seen a dentist in over a year, you might want to schedule a visit.

There are several options your dentist can provide, such as in-office whitening or professional take-home kits. With in-office whitening, the biggest benefit is the significant color change in a short period of time. With this procedure, your dentist will use a high concentration of peroxide gel and apply it directly to your teeth. Your gums are protected during this time to avoid any sensitivity, and the entire process lasts about an hour. Generally, the cost averages around $650, depending on the dentist and the number of treatments you need.

If your stains can be treated with take-home whitening kits from the dentist, you also have this option. Kits produce quality results over a longer period of time. Gel is placed in trays that remain on the teeth for longer periods of time, sometimes overnight. These treatments start at about $200 on average.

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AreThere Risks?

Risks associated with teeth whitening include sensitivity, gum irritation, and discoloration. Most dentists will agree that these risks are minimal for the outcome, and that most patients are happy to deal with some sensitivity in order to achieve a brighter smile.

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Keeping Your Smile Bright

Your dentist will suggest things you can do on a regular basis to help keep your new smile bright. Of course, be sure to check with your dentist before trying anything you are unsure of. Dentist-approved tips include using baking soda to brush your teeth. Some foods, like apples and carrots, trigger excess saliva, which helps scrub away the stains. Gum chewing is also a saliva producer. To help deter stains from forming, make sure to either chew gum, brush your teeth, or rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking.

For women, there are several make-up tricks that can be used to make your smile seem brighter. One such tip from Good Housekeeping is to wear red lipstick. When you combine that with tricks like disguising lip lines and faking fullness, your teeth are sure to be brighter!

By Angela Bickford


Category: Health & Fitness Articles, More Features

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