The best tips for brilliant white teeth

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Sure, white teeth look great. But would you have thought that beautiful teeth can also determine how successful someone becomes? A flawless smile is considered intelligent and ambitious, according to an English study. 

Researchers from King’s College in London had presented photos of smiling people to about 100 participants for their study. The study showed that people with bad and crooked teeth were not only considered less attractive, but also less intelligent and less popular.

People with artificially whitened teeth, on the other hand, were rated above average. The study participants even believed they would have greater career success, the psychologists reported.

Those who want to take advantage of the career-pushing effect of a white smile have a choice of numerous dental beautification procedures, from whitening toothpaste to professional teeth cleaning and bleaching. But what helps? And above all: What really helps? We answer the most important questions about whitening teeth.

Why do I have yellow teeth at all?

Almost no one has white teeth by nature. More common are tones between eggshell, beige or light yellow. If this is the case for you, take comfort in the fact that a darker tooth color is a sign of thicker and therefore more robust enamel. Your teeth are therefore less susceptible to decay. 

The color of your skin also determines how bright your teeth look. The darker the complexion, the stronger the contrast with the smile. This makes the teeth look a little brighter in the summer when you are tanned. But genes and lack of sun hours are not to blame for everything.

If you want to score points with a white smile, you should consume less red wine, coffee and tea in future, or preferably none at all. These drinks cause unsightly discoloration.

Another culprit: cigarettes. The nicotine contained in cigarettes causes ugly stains and additionally promotes the effect of red wine and co. even more.

What do I need to know before whitening my teeth?

The basic prerequisite for bleaching are healthy teeth. You must not have caries, otherwise the bleaching agent will penetrate the affected teeth and cause damage. Dental fillings such as crowns cannot be bleached. They retain their old color and may have to be replaced if they are in the visible area. A good dentist will point this out to you in any case.

Healthy gums are also important. “Regardless of whether you want to bleach yourself with over-the-counter materials or treat yourself to professional bleaching – it is definitely necessary for the dentist to check the condition of the dentition and gums in advance and, if necessary, put them in order,” says Wolfgang Boer, dentist and press spokesman for the German Society for Aesthetic Dentistry (DGÄZ).

How does bleaching actually work?

First of all, the dentist removes deposits and discolorations from the tooth surfaces with the help of a professional cleaning (PZR). Then a tasteless, colorless gel is applied: carbamide peroxide. This contains carbamide, the carrier substance, and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2).

The active ingredient penetrates the tooth enamel and releases oxygen radicals, which chemically change the colorants by reduction. The coloring effect is thus cancelled, and the teeth become brighter. That’s what you want? Then you have two professional whitening methods to choose from:

1. Bleaching trays from the dentist for home use

First, the dentist makes an impression of your teeth. On the basis of this, thin plastic trays are made, which are perfectly adapted to the individual position of your teeth. Before each application, you fill the splints with the carbamide peroxide gel provided by the dentist.

Then you insert the splints, depending on the instructions of your dentist in the evening for a few hours or overnight. After about two weeks, you will usually have achieved the desired whitening.

During this time, the dentist regularly checks how much the teeth have already been whitened and whether side effects have occurred. “Home bleaching is the most proven and safest bleaching method. It has been successfully practiced millions of times worldwide and has no side effects,” explains Wolfgang Boer.

Costs: 350 € – 600 €
Advantages: Gentle, as low concentration of active ingredient, no side effects
Disadvantages: lasts longer compared to in-office or power bleaching

2. In-Office-Bleaching in practice

In-office bleaching (also: “power bleaching”, “soft bleaching” or “zoom”) takes place directly on site in the dental practice. 2-3 sessions are usually enough to achieve the desired whitening effect. For this purpose, the dentist uses a carbamide peroxide gel in a dosage 3 times higher than that used for home bleaching. This is also heated by special lamps. The increase in temperature ensures that teeth whitening is much faster. The gums must be covered beforehand to protect them from the high concentration of the agent. “Especially for working people with little time, in-office bleaching is suitable because it is very fast,” explains Boer.

Cost: 450 € – 700€
Advantages: Faster than home bleaching, suitable for working people with little time
Disadvantages: more aggressive, cold

Would you rather have teeth whitening trays or in-office bleaching?

The Power Bleaching promises, so it is marketed, a more intensive bleaching effect. A study by the University Medical Center Göttingen (see “Quintessenz,” Jhg. 67, S. 921-925) points out, however, that in comparison to home bleaching no improved bleaching effect is recognizable.

In contrast, the risk of hypersensitivity is much higher with in-office bleaching methods. “The high carbamide peroxide concentration also increases the sensitivity to cold and heat. After 2-3 days, this effect is gone, but can also be very painful.”

So: Be patient and bleach with splints from the dentist at home. It takes longer, but it saves money and pain.

Can I whiten my teeth at home?

Trays, strips or gels: drugstores and pharmacies offer all kinds of products that make it easy to gradually whiten your teeth at home. But beware: none of the methods presented can be compared with professional bleaching! They only provide a slight whitening effect. And: experts warn against gum irritation. In addition, tooth sensitivity may be increased if whitening products are applied to exposed tooth necks. 

What whitening toothpaste brings?

Those who want to brush their teeth snow-white will be disappointed. “To visibly whiten teeth, toothpastes are not enough,” tells us Dr. Ralf Rößler, prophylaxis expert and lecturer at Steinbeis University in Berlin. But slightly brighter teeth are actually also available from the tube. A study by the Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg shows that so-called “whitening toothpastes” do not change the natural color of teeth, but they can dissolve discolorations such as those caused by nicotine, coffee, tea or red wine and thus lighten teeth by two to three levels. We have tested these products and can recommend them to you:

Can white toothpaste harm the teeth?

Read the manufacturer’s recommendations carefully, otherwise too much enamel will be ground off quickly and the teeth will become increasingly rough. Some whitening toothpastes may be used daily, others only 1-2 times a week. It is better to strictly follow the instructions for use, so that you do not lose your smile.

Can teeth cleaning replace whitening?

As a supplement to daily oral hygiene, it makes sense to have your teeth professionally cleaned 1-2 times a year. Professional teeth cleaning has several advantages: it protects against dental diseases such as caries, gingivitis or periodontitis – and also removes discoloration and color residues. Nowadays, professional teeth cleaning is often carried out by specially trained dental hygienists. Various tools are used to carefully remove impurities from the teeth.

Although your teeth do not become whiter through the cleaning itself, they appear so afterwards because they are free of tartar and discoloration. The costs are not necessarily or even partially covered by health insurance. You can, however, book certain “additional offers” that cover the treatment costs if you regularly go for preventive checkups.

Cost: About €50-150, depending on the cleaning needs (how much do the teeth need to be cleaned?)
Advantages: Protects against dental diseases such as tooth decay, gingivitis or periodontitis
Disadvantages: Can not whiten the natural color of the teeth

What are the benefits of home remedies for white teeth?

Wherever you got the tip that you can easily whiten your teeth at home with home remedies like baking soda, lemon juice and salt, don’t believe it. If you brush your teeth with these household remedies, you wear away the enamel due to the abrasive effect. However, the home remedies not only damage the teeth, they also ensure that the underlying yellowish-brown dentin becomes visible due to the enamel erosion, explains Dr. Ralf Rößler.

Can you eat your teeth white?

Various foods act as a kind of self-cleaner for the teeth. Natural food with a lot of vitamin C (for example, in celery, carrots, apples) supports dental health, counteracts gingivitis, and promotes saliva production in the mouth. Saliva acts as a natural tooth cleaner in our mouths. Dairy products such as curd cheese and yogurt contain a lot of calcium, which strengthens teeth. Strong and healthy teeth are in turn the best prerequisite for white teeth.

Makes more thorough brushing whiter teeth?

Good oral hygiene is the basic prerequisite for beautiful white teeth. Brush in the morning and in the evening. But with a toothbrush alone, you will unfortunately not be able to remove all the harmful foreign bodies that spread in the interdental spaces and cause not only bad breath but also discoloration.

If you floss regularly, you can not only prevent new discolorations. Also already existing stains can, if not completely eliminated, at least be moderated, betrays Dr. Rößler.

For those who prefer to be on the safe side, bleaching at the dentist is probably the most effective and gentle method. The only catch: the cost.

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