Dazzling white smiles are the new must-have with teeth whitening claiming the top spot for the most commonly requested cosmetic dental treatment of recent years. But have you ever wondered how white your teeth should actually be?
When you meet someone for the first time, their smile is one of the first things you notice, so having beautifully white teeth to complement a warm and friendly smile is an asset. However, many of us feel uncomfortable breaking out a big toothy grin due to the embarrassment of revealing stained or discoloured teeth.
These days we are bombarded with bright white smiles, be it on the television, the silver screen, in a magazine or grinning down at us from a giant billboard. Whiter teeth can help us feel more confident and look more youthful, but is there a point where the ‘Hollywood Smile’ becomes unrealistic? Recently, P&G toothpaste brand Crest were fined 6.03 million yuan (approx. £644,000) for faking the super white teeth of an actress with computer effects in a recent advert. While this may be an extreme example of false advertising in the media, many actors and actresses do have veneers, which can be made to be as natural looking or as white as the customer would like!
It is important to remember why our teeth are white in the first place and ensure we are making informed and guided decisions about whitening treatments. Remember to always consult your dentist.
Why Are Teeth White?
Our teeth are made up of 3 basic parts; enamel, dentin, and pulp. The top part of the tooth, the crown, is the only part of the tooth you should be able to see and consists of a thick outer layer of enamel with dentin underneath. Enamel is mostly made up of calcium phosphate, a naturally white, rock-hard mineral, giving our teeth their white colour.
Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body and should last a lifetime. However, the outer layer of enamel can become damaged or worn down, particularly if you eat a lot of sugary foods. If the enamel layer becomes thin, the underlying dentin, which is darker and more yellow, may begin to have a colouring effect on your teeth. As we age, our enamel will naturally become thinner. This is unavoidable, but having a good dental hygiene routine and making sound food and drink choices will help to slow the process.
Simply put, the healthier the enamel, the harder and thicker it will be and therefore the whiter your teeth will appear!
Causes Of Discolouration
Despite our best efforts there are many factors that can lead to tooth discolouration:
- Food & Drink – Coffee, tea and wine are probably the most well known tooth staining foods, but certain fruits and vegetables like blueberries and beetroot can stain teeth too.
- Smoking – Tobacco contains nicotine and tar which settle in the oral cavity leading to dark yellow or brown staining on tooth surfaces.
- Poor Dental Hygiene – Lack of adequate brushing and flossing is the leading cause of tooth staining. A good oral hygiene routine will help to eliminate and prevent stains as well as decay and other dental disease.
- Age – As previously mentioned, tooth enamel will naturally thin with age revealing the yellow dentin beneath.
- Medication – Some medications are known to cause tooth discolouration. Probably the most well known being the antibiotic tetracycline which can cause greying of the teeth.
Choosing The Right ‘White’ For You
It is no wonder that teeth whitening has great appeal, but white teeth aren’t just about aesthetics. A fresh, clean, bright white smile can have a significant effect on an individual’s confidence, which in turn can lead to any number of positive outcomes.
There are many options available to help whiten teeth, from an everyday scale and polish procedure (available on the NHS when recommended by your dentist), to whitening gels and bleaching products you can buy over the counter and administer at home, to more clinical laser whitening procedures and full veneers from a qualified dentist. It is important to always consult your dentist before beginning any whitening treatments, even those available to buy and do at home. Sometimes people that ‘go-it-alone’ end up going too far with home bleaching kits, resulting in unnecessary damage to tooth enamel, decay or teeth that look translucent or pearlescent.
A good rule of thumb when determining how white your teeth should be is to look at the whites of your eyes. Whether whitening at home or undergoing treatment by a professional dentist, you should be aiming for a shade of white similar to that of your eyes. If you decide to bleach your teeth whiter than this you may end up with teeth that are an unwanted focal point and fake looking – imagine Ross from that episode of Friends!
For more more information about teeth whitening and cosmetic dentistry, Jenny Kabir, the Clinical Director and the team at Fresh Dental Smile Clinic will be more than happy to provide additional advice and guidance. You can also check out the teeth whitening packages available at the Smile Clinic.