A sparkling set of pearly whites are often thought to be the secret behind the ultimate winning smile - not to mention Hollywood-esque good looks.
A study carried out by researchers from Leeds and Central Lancashire University revealed that when presented with 150 images of men and women, partakers chose those with the most evenly spaced, white teeth as the most attractive. When delving deeper into the reasons behind why this was, it was concluded that teeth are viewed as the human equivalent of a peacock’s tail - a sign of health and genetic quality designed to help choose a mate. And, having witnessed many a celebrity transformation thanks to a new set of bright white gnashers, we know the dazzling difference they can make.
“It’s no secret that we all want whiter teeth, but with an abundance of discounted deals and different products on the market all promising a beautiful smile, it can be hard to tell which treatment or product to go for,” says Dentist at award-winning dental and orthodontic practice Elleven , Dr Peta Leigh.
“Aside from the risk of wasting money on products which do not work, it is even more imperative to make the right decision, as many unlicensed treatments or products can put your oral health at risk, causing irreparable damage to your teeth and enamel.”
So, whether at home or sat in the dentist’s chair here are Dr Leigh’s eight top tips for anybody looking to take the pearly plunge into teeth whitening.
1. DO visit a dentist
“When considering undergoing teeth whitening, it is crucial that you visit a qualified and registered dentist. The UK General Dental Council has deemed that tooth whitening is the “practice of dentistry” and therefore it should only be carried out by appropriately trained and registered dental professionals.
“It’s fine to use at-home treatments that are supervised by a dentist if the appropriate whitening gel is used as these can be very effective and convenient. However, beware of gels bought on the internet as at best they do nothing to improve the whiteness of your teeth, and at worst can be extremely acidic and harmful to your teeth.”
2. DON’T expect miracles from toothpaste
“All toothpastes have a detergent-like effect on the surface of the teeth, and when combined with brushing will remove superficial stains, making the teeth feel and look cleaner. Whitening toothpastes are basically for stain removal and use either enzymes or mechanical particles to remove stains. They may be useful if you drink lots of tea, coffee and other stain-producing liquids and foods, but they do not whiten teeth.”
3. DO look at the ingredients
“In 2012, a change in EU regulations made sure that the maximum concentration of Hydrogen Peroxide allowed in whitening gel is 6%. If you are offered anything above this concentration, then it is illegal and you must not use it. Make sure to report any suspected illegal whitening practice to IllegalPractice@gdc-uk.org .
“At Elleven, we use the PrevDent power whitening; the treatment uses the standard 6% hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth, but the solution also contains tiny particles of the same mineral found in teeth and bones that give them their hardness and strength. These particles adhere to your tooth enamel and exposed dentin, filling in the lesions, restoring the enamel, reducing tooth sensitivity and creating a smoother tooth surface. PrevDent achieves very good results with a less aggressive ingredient and this results in far less sensitivity for the patient overall.”
4. DON’T forget your fillings
“It is important to remember that when undertaking tooth whitening, only the natural tooth structure will change shade. Any pre-existing tooth coloured restorations, such as fillings, will likely no longer match the surrounding tooth and will need replacing. Ideally, you should whiten the teeth to your desired colour and then change the fillings to match. Before undergoing teeth whitening you should also choose a shade that will suit your face and not give you that unnatural Hollywood look. It is best to pick the shade that relates to your skin tone - using the shade of your sclera (white of your eyes) is a good guide.”
5. DON’T substitute regular visits to the dentist with oil pulling
“ Oil pulling to whiten teeth and improve overall oral health has become increasingly popular with many celebrities endorsing the craze; however, there has been no evidence to date that this method works. Essentially, this technique involves swishing a tablespoon of oil around the mouth for 15-20 minutes; this then supposedly draws out toxins in your body and your mouth, improving your oral health and in turn, whitening teeth as stains are drawn out and removed.
“If you are going to try this technique make sure you do not substitute it with your regular visits to the dentist as it will not reverse tooth decay or help extensively to whiten teeth. Some stains may be removed, but regular visits to the dentist are still essential and it is advised that whitening treatments must always be carried out by your dentist.”
6. DO be aware of over-the-counter UV Kits
“Although DIY kits bought over-the-counter claim to be safe, they can easily be used incorrectly and research has shown that they can lead to stomach problems, mouth infections, toothache, gum- shrinking and even nerve damage. Ideally It is best not to use these kits as you can also result in having spotted or patchy teeth due to an uneven spread of bleach.
“Professional home whitening systems provided by your dentist are highly effective - however, products available on the high street do not contain enough active ingredient of Hydrogen Peroxide or Carbamide Peroxide to have any real effect on the tooth colour.”
7. DON’T use whitening strips more than once a year
“Teeth whitening strips are reasonably priced and easy to order, and if you have used them before you will notice a brighter and whiter smile. However, when used excessively these strips can cause damage and painful sensitivity to your teeth. You may also find that white spots occur on your gums which is not ideal; the strips themselves do not actually get into the crevices between teeth so you may also see uneven colour. If you are going to use whitening strips though then it is best to stick to the recommended usage of no more than one course a year.”
8. DO steer clear of staining foods after whitening
“There is no hard evidence that you need to avoid consuming coloured foods when teeth are whitened, however it is best to steer clear of foods that would stain a white ceramic bowl when left to sit in it for a few hours. Generally the biggest culprits for staining teeth that you should avoid straight after whitening are tobacco, black tea or coffee and red wine.”