Is your smile up to scratch? Many people are reluctant to smile because they are unhappy with the state of their teeth. But what can you do about it?
Maybe you’ve suffered from decay in the past, or perhaps you wish your teeth were just a little whiter. Having whiter, straighter teeth is a quick way to improve your self-esteem, improve your appearance and even improve your chances of promotion.
Did you know that your smile is the first thing that someone notices about you when they meet you? It forms an important part of your first impression.
The quickest and easiest way to improve your smile is to have your teeth whitened by a dentist. You may want to whiten your teeth because they have become discoloured, which can happen in two different ways.
Firstly, through the pellicle. This is the sticky protein coating which is always present on the teeth. On the flatter surfaces of the teeth, such as the front face, where brushing is simple, this coat is easily removed. However, pellicle will remain on the harder-to-reach areas, such as pits, cracks, grooves and natural undulations of the teeth.
When your brushing technique isn’t as effective as it should be, the pellicle film accumulates bacteria and particles of food, creating plaque, which is white in colour. As the plaque calcifies and forms tartar, it becomes a yellow-brown colour — which is also easily stained by food, drink and smoking. These stains can be removed through a professional cleaning session with your dental hygienist.
Tooth whitening as carried out by a dentist is capable of permanently changing the underlying base colour of your teeth. Some people have naturally yellower or greyer teeth than others, and all of us had whiter teeth as children because the composition of the teeth is different.
When your dentist whitens your teeth, they use chemicals that set off an oxidising reaction within the discolouration, breaking it down and removing it from the teeth. The result is a permanent whitening of your teeth; although without thorough brushing the pellicle film can build up again and stain the teeth once more.
You should never buy a home whitening kit online. These products don’t always have the ingredients claimed at the quantities stated and may not have been fully tested or approved. The most dangerous of these is the ‘non-peroxide’ tooth whitening kit. Advertising itself as a safe alternative to hydrogen peroxide, these sodium perborate kits contain chemicals banned in the EU as they have both carcinogenic and mutagenic (damaging to the next generation) properties.
The home whitening kits you can buy from supermarkets aren’t dangerous, but they are less effective than procedures available from your dentist. In the UK, the only people permitted to use tooth whitening sets using anything more than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide are dental professionals, who can use up to 6%.
You should never get your teeth whitened at a beauty salon. Legally, they are under the same restrictions as home whitening kits; either they will be using under 0.1% hydrogen peroxide, which is ineffective, or they will be using illegal and potentially dangerous sets. In a recent report, some salons were found to be using kits of up to 23.8% hydrogen peroxide, causing gum lesions and other significant damage to the mouth and throat.
Before beginning a course of tooth whitening, your dentist should take a full medical history to ensure that there are no risks or health concerns with you having the treatment. There are no side-effects to teeth whitening other than a temporary sensitivity, which is why dentists should always supply a desensitising agent when carrying out whitening.
If you have partial dentures or crowns, you may need to have alterations made to match the colour of your newly whitened teeth.
If you have a missing tooth, a dental implant is the perfect replacement: As well as making an aesthetic improvement, an implanted tooth will have a positive effect on your dental and physical health. As your smile is one of the most important factors when making a first impression, whether at work or socially, an implant could be one of the most beneficial changes you can make to your smile.
Implants consist of a root that is implanted in the jaw with a crown on top. The implant is usually titanium alloyed with zirconium, both materials that are biocompatible and therefore non-irritant to the jaw. An implant fuses with the jawbone over time, a process known as osseointegration, which strengthens both the stability of the implant and the jaw itself. An implant is a strong and durable way to permanently replace a lost tooth or teeth.
As well as improving the look of your smile, implants can improve your health and wellbeing. A mouth without gaps is easier to clean and maintain (food doesn’t get stuck in the gap between teeth) and the implant helps to maintain your bite. When you lose a tooth, the teeth around it begin to migrate into the gap, meaning your bite can become distorted and teeth can be chipped or broken while chewing. Another side effect of tooth loss is deterioration of the bone around the site of the lost tooth. An implant prevents this loss as it provides a structure for the remaining bone to heal around.
If you’re thinking about improving your smile, speak to your dentist. They can offer expert and professional advice on safely improving your smile and caring for your teeth.