This week, Dr. Stephen Durham, a dentist with Durham Dental in Beaufort, discusses teeth whitening.
Question: What is the best way to whiten my teeth? How safe are those over-the-counter gels and strips?
Answer: It is no secret that whitening your teeth has a powerful impact on the overall healthy, vibrant appearance of your smile.
How to go about getting the whiter, brighter teeth you desire is, however, something to consider carefully.
Short of taking your dentist along with you to peruse the local drugstores' shelves of strips, trays, pens and gels available for purchase over-the-counter, it is advisable -- and recommended by the American Dental Association -- that before choosing a whitening treatment you first start with a comprehensive exam at your dentist's office.
The reason for this is simple.
Depending on your dental health, there are certain risks associated with an over-the-counter whitening treatment that may prevent the treatment from working, or worse, could cause significant damage to your teeth and the need for subsequent dental work.
This is especially true for patients with gum disease, significant fillings and crowns (especially in front), tooth sensitivity (to hot and cold), and thin enamel or teeth gray in color (due to childhood exposure to antibiotics like tetracycline).
Whitening at home for these patients could mean a whole host of unexpected side-effects, including extreme tooth and gum sensitivity, uneven whitening (some dental restorations won't whiten and will appear much darker than surrounding teeth) and damage to tooth pulp due to undetected cracks in the teeth, which could lead to root canal.
Patients who smoke and have staining or those who drink a lot of soda or coffee may also be unable to achieve desired results with an over-the-counter whitening treatment.
A comprehensive exam with your dentist will rule out any undetected concerns before a whitening treatment is followed.
You and your dentist can then determine the best course of treatment for you to achieve the best and brightest whitening outcome.
Your dental team can also educate you and help you weigh the costs and benefits of over-the-counter versus professional whitening treatments.
Follow reporter Mindy Lucas at twitter.com/MindyatIPBG.