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October 4, 2013

Can over-the-counter bleaching damage my teeth?

Everyone wants a white, shiny smile. White teeth are a sign of good health and social status – people judge each other by appearance, and a healthy smile makes you look more approachable and trustworthy.

There are a number of over-the-counter teeth whitening options available. Crest Whitestrips® are one of the most popular and widely-recognized over-the-counter teeth whitening systems. Other examples include whitening/bleaching gels that are applied with a mouth guard (allowing the teeth to “soak” in the whitening gel).

Before you start trying to whiten your teeth, you should talk with your dentist. It’s important to get some professional advice as to whether or not your teeth coloration would be improved with whitening – not all types of teeth discoloration can be effectively treated with whitening systems. Your dentist also might recommend “in-office whitening” – professionally applied whitening done in the dentist’s office.

But if you feel that over-the-counter teeth whitening is right for you, keep the following risks in mind:

  • Chemical burns: It sounds scary, but it’s true – some teeth whitening systems use high-concentration chemicals which can cause harm to your gums and other sensitive tissues if they come in contact. Follow the directions closely and use caution with any over-the-counter teeth whitening method.
  • Tooth sensitivity: Especially in the early stages of the teeth whitening treatment, you might experience heightened sensitivity or discomfort in your teeth.
  • Too much of a good thing: Some people experience “overbleaching” – “hyperodonto-oxidation” – caused by over-the-counter teeth whitening systems. Again, read the directions closely and watch for excessively bright results. You want a white, shiny smile – not blindingly white.
  • Watch out for “the rebound:” No, this is not relationship advice…sometimes when you get your teeth whitened, the new white color doesn’t stay. “Rebound” is the technical term for what happens when newly whitened teeth go back to their old color. Read the directions closely and consult your dentist if you feel that you are not getting the lasting results that you were hoping for.

In addition to these possible side effects and risks, some people should be especially cautious about teeth whitening. For example:

  • If you have sensitive teeth, receding gums, or if you’ve had restorative dental work done in the past (cavities, bridgework), you should ask your dentist before you start using any kind of tooth whitening system.
  • If you are sensitive to hydrogen peroxide (the “active ingredient” that actually makes the teeth whiter), don’t try to whiten your teeth without talking to your dentist first!
    • Teeth whitening is not recommended for children under age 16. Children’s teeth are still maturing at this age, and the pulp chamber, or “nerve” of the tooth, is especially large until people reach about the age of 16 – which puts kids at risk of irritation of the tooth pulp.
    • Teeth whitening is also not recommended for pregnant or lactating women.

Teeth whitening – whether it’s done at your dentist’s office or with over-the-counter systems – can be a big difference-maker in how you feel about the smile you present to the world. But make sure you’re aware of the risks and possible side effects. It’s always best to consult with your dentist before starting on a new teeth whitening system.

September 4, 2013

Can wine and coffee permanently damage my teeth?

Every day, billions of people all over the world drink coffee, wine, tea and other dark-colored beverages. These drinks have been part of human history for thousands of years.

So is it possible that these beloved beverages are actually ruining our teeth?

In a word, yes.

Although many of us love to start the morning with a hot cup of coffee, and wine is a social lubricant for many a dinner party and high-class reception, these beverages can harm our teeth. In addition to the other health effects of caffeine and alcohol, these drinks have particular impact on our dental health.

So what is it about wine and coffee that make them so damaging to teeth?

The answer: acid.

Coffee and wine are both highly acidic beverages. The acid in these drinks interacts with the enamel in our teeth and causes the tooth enamel to break down over time.

Coffee and wine also can stain our teeth. If you’re a heavy drinker of coffee or wine, your teeth are likely to show unsightly signs of your beverage consumption.

So what can you do? How can you enjoy a morning cup of coffee or an evening glass of wine without worrying about damaging your teeth?

Here are a few tips:

  • Sip, don’t slosh. Try to avoid the amount of contact that the drink makes with your teeth. While you’re drinking your coffee, try not to slosh the coffee around in your mouth – don’t cause your teeth to be in contact with the liquid any longer than necessary.
  • Use a straw. If you’re a frequent visitor to Starbucks or other coffee places, get a straw to drink your mocha frappucino. Drinking through a straw causes the liquid to pass by your teeth – reducing the amount of contact that the acidic liquid makes with your tooth enamel.
  • Don’t brush too soon after drinking. So you just had a cup of coffee/glass of wine. Your teeth are coated with a thin layer of acid, eating away at your tooth enamel. You  might think that the solution is to go brush your teeth, right? WRONG. If you brush too soon after drinking coffee or wine, you might actually make the problem worse. The act of brushing your teeth will spread the acid around and disperse the acidic effects farther and deeper into your tooth enamel. Wait at least an hour after drinking coffee or wine – and drink some water – prior to brushing.
  • Beware of white wine. Most people assume that red wine is the biggest culprit in damaging and staining teeth – but recent research suggests that white wine might actually be more harmful. Avoid the effects of wine by sipping your drink less frequently – and try not to “soak” your teeth. (Some of the worst effects of wine on teeth have been observed in wine tasters – who frequently “soak” their teeth as a side effect of sampling dozens of different wines.)
  • Be cheesy. One of the best ways to counteract the effects of wine on your teeth is to eat some cheese – either along with or shortly after your wine drinking. Cheese contains calcium, which helps to prevent dental erosion – by eating cheese, you are helping to replace the calcium in your tooth enamel that is damaged by the acid in the wine. There’s a reason why wine and cheese go together so well…

You don’t have to give up drinking coffee and wine. But just be aware that there are risks to your teeth – and use some of these helpful tips to keep your teeth white and healthy.

555 N. New Ballas Rd., Suite 355, St. Louis, MO 63141 USA
Dr. Jeffrey Dalin Dalin Dental Associates is the dental office of Dr. Jeffrey Dalin and is located in St. Louis, MO offering cosmetic dentistry, general and restorative dentistry to families. (314) 567-3555 (314) 567-9047