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What do people find most attractive in others? A beautiful head of hair? A great body? Luckily, it’s something we all can acquire without inheriting great hair from our grandmothers or camping out at the gym. According to a national survey from the American Dental Association (ADA) and Crest® and Oral B®, the smile outranked eyes, hair and the body as the most attractive physical feature.
If smiles are our most powerful weapons of attraction, why don’t we smile more? Many people keep their smiles to themselves because yellowed or stained teeth embarrass them. And many of us have so pearly whites that aren’t so, well, white. Teeth usually darken as we age. Other factors can cause teeth to become discolored, too, including:
- Antibiotics – The use of antibiotics during childhood, or exposure to high levels of fluoride or tetracycline can cause dull or discolored teeth.
- Certain foods – Oranges, carrots and other foods can yellow teeth, as can coffee, tea, and foods and drinks with tannins (like red wines).
- Tobacco – Both smoking and chewing can lead to an unsightly smile.
- Genetics – Once again, heredity reigns.
But though we can’t choose ancestors with bright smiles, we can elect to do something about our own teeth.
Ways to Whiten
Teeth whitening can be done at home with over-the-counter remedies, or in a dentist’s office. At-home treatments include:
- Rinses -These easy-to-use, mouthwash-type rinses whiten smiles gradually, since they’re only in contact with teeth for a short time.
- Toothpastes - Since these toothpastes remove surface stains with enzymes or mild abrasives, they can make teeth sensitive.
- Gel strips - For best effect, these peroxide-based strips need to be applied once a day, usually for 30 minutes to two hours, and work best when used for 10 to 20 days.
- Whitening gels - Though these whiteners can be applied with a toothbrush or cotton swab, they’re most commonly used with plastic mouth trays. A gel-filled mouth tray can whiten teeth faster than the other methods, but are more likely to irritate gums, since the trays are not custom-made.
Dentists also use mouth trays, but fit them to each patient. And since dentists can protect the patient’s gums during the procedure, they can use stronger whitening agents than at-home remedies contain, and can lighten teeth as much as ten shades in just an hour.
Which to choose? If your teeth and gums are in good condition, cost is an issue, and time is not of the essence, a do-it-yourself remedy may work just fine, though it will probably not whiten teeth as much as a dentist could. For teeth that may be sensitive or especially stained, or when whiter teeth are desired quickly (for a wedding, perhaps), an in-office whitening procedure would probably be a better choice.
Either way, it’s best to check with a dentist to check the health of teeth and gums before beginning any whitening procedure. Also make sure that porcelain or composite crowns don’t show when you smile. Since whiteners don’t affect them, they’ll remain stained. You could end up with a nice bright smile—and one yellowish tooth. When using any whitener, follow directions to the letter, and stop using it if your teeth or gums become sensitive or inflamed.
A Whiter Smile Can …
A whiter brighter smile not only makes you more attractive, it can actually make you look younger. White teeth are associated with youth, since baby teeth are naturally brighter than adult teeth. And if you smile more with your new whiter teeth, you may even make yourself happier and healthier. Studies show that people who smile are more relaxed, have a more positive outlook, and even recover from stressful activities with lower heart rates. It’s a fact: your smile has enormous power. Use it.
Dr. David Silber is a DMD at Jefferson Dental Clinics. Dr. Silber is considered a mentor of his dental practice and takes ownership of the patient’s well-being through moral business practices and high quality patient care.