Teeth whitening is big business, and it's only getting bigger. By the year 2024, the global teeth whitening industry is estimated to be worth over $7.4 billion. In the United States, 39 million people got some form of teeth whitening in 2017 alone. People are focusing on their smiles in ways and numbers the world has never before seen.
According to a survey conducted by American Association of Orthodontists, 48% of Americans ages 18-24 have untagged a picture of themselves on social media because they didn't like their smile. A 2012 study found that when someone’s smile is yellower and more spaced out, they are seen as a less viable partner. Since the color of one’s teeth can indicator their eating, smoking and drinking habits, it makes perfect sense that having a flashy smile can be understood as a virtue. Cosmetic enhancements subconsciously give off the illusion of health and subsequently make people more attractive. But are they actually worth it?
But what’s the actual science behind this rapidly growing fad? And are there safer, more practical alternatives than what’s usually advertised?
Those are the questions on the menu today, and we intend on answering 'em. So kick back and pull up a chair. This is The hims Guide to Teeth Whitening.
What Is Teeth Whitening?
There are two types of teeth whitening—the kind you get at a dentist’s office and the over-the-counter teeth whitening kits sold at your local pharmacy. At a dentist’s office, for an extra fee, you can get a chairside bleaching session that will brighten your smile. Teeth whitening is meant to combat staining. Everyday things like smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, eating food or consuming sugary liquids lead to staining. In dental terms, stains are referred to as a pellicle film that form above the outer layer of your teeth. Teeth whitening is meant to turn back the clock on staining by breaking down the layers of pellicle film and returning your pearly whites to their former glory.
During your chairside bleaching session, your dentist applies a bleaching paste that has hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These sessions last anywhere between 40 to 60 minutes.Your Dentist could also set you up with a home procedure by molding your teeth, making you a customized mouth tray and giving you a gel that you’ll apply daily.
Though these procedures are popular, there’s also an abundance of over-the-counter teeth whitening products and kits that contain bleaching pastes. These options include rinses, tooth-pastes, strips and gels. Despite being significantly cheaper than a chairside session, there’s no medical professional overlooking the process. In addition, over-the-counter options like whitening strips and special toothpastes have lower doses of bleaching agents and hence and are generally considered far less effective than the stuff administered by a professional. Of course, they're also far more affordable.
Is Teeth Whitening Safe?
Although these bleaching pastes contain chemicals that could also be used to dye your hair, they are considered safe because of the relatively small doses. However, the American Dental Association recommends that people consult with their dentists before starting teeth whitening. They stress that people with any fillings, crowns and extremely dark stains should speak to a professional to see if bleaching is right for them. These gels could potentially lead to your gums feeling like they are burning. But if applied correctly and with the supervision of a certified professional, this shouldn’t be a cause for alarm.
Teeth whitening may be safe and has been proven to work, but it doesn’t necessarily get to the root of the problem of staining. Even if you’re using over-the-counter teeth whitening products, it can still get pretty expensive. Are there any alternatives to bleaching your teeth?
Dental Hygiene Alternatives
It’s important to remember that whether its done at home or the dentist’s office, teeth whitening is cosmetic and isn’t related to your overall dental hygiene. However, if you avoid things that stain your teeth and keep up with a proper dental hygiene regimen, teeth whitening sessions shouldn’t be necessary. Here are some dental hygiene tips:
Absolutely No Cigarettes
It’s common knowledge that cigarettes wreak havoc on your teeth. When your teeth absorb tar and nicotine, the oxygen causes it to become yellow. Though they have been advertised as a alternative to cigarettes, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine. Teeth whitening might be able to mitigate the effects of smoking, but unless you quit altogether, you will be caught in a perpetual cycle of staining, cleaning and then re-staining.
Be Careful If You Drink Coffee
Unlike cigarettes, a moderate amount of coffee is perfectly healthy. Although coffee does stain your teeth, there are ways to reduce staining. You should brush your teeth after every meal you have it and try your best to drink from a straw. Drinking excessive amounts of coffee will certainly increase your risk of stains, but it doesn't necessarily call for quitting coffee cold turkey or altogether.
Watch What You Eat and Drink
There’s a plethora of information out there about how specific foods and drinks can affect your weight and overall health. But what you eat and drink also has a notable impact on your dental health. If you’re worried about the coloration of your teeth, here are a few of the foods you should watch out for:
- Sugary candy
- Acidic food and juices (pickled food, oranges, lemons, limes)
- Soda and sugary drinks
- Salty snacks
Keep up with Basic Hygiene
At the end of the day, the color of your teeth reflects your overall dental hygiene. If you’re careless and not keeping up with brushing and flossing, then your teeth could build up plaque that leads to staining. Since teeth whitening can be prohibitively expensive and is far from a long-lasting solution, you should view your dental hygiene as a worthy investment. Look into purchasing kits or sonic toothbrushes and visit your dentist on a yearly basis. For those who concerned about chemicals, there’s also a myriad of organic toothpastes and mouthwashes out there, too.
Having a bright smile is one part to having an overall healthy lifestyle. Check out the hims blog for more tips and guides on being your healthiest and happiest self.