December 9, 2023By Dr. TannerIn Smiles6 Minutes

The Inside Scoop on a Whiter, Brighter Smile

If we feel good about our smile, we smile more!

Most of us would like to have a whiter smile. A whiter, brighter smile gives us a youthful appearance, provides us with confidence and and makes us feel more attractive. A bright smile can be one of our most powerful assets, in both professional and social situations. If we feel good about our smile, we smile more, and when we smile more, we receive all the aforementioned benefits!

How straight teeth play a role

Before launching into how to create a whiter smile, it is important to understand that straight teeth play a major roll in how our smile is perceived by others. Teeth are like small mirrors – they have a reflective quality to them, especially when wet. If teeth are crowded or overlapped, that light reflection is disrupted. As a result, shadows are created which gives the illusion that certain teeth appear darker and the flash of a bright, white smile is lost. In addition, if the arch form is not ideal – for example if it is narrow or “V-shaped”, a similar effect is created diminishing the “sparkle” of the smile. Dark corridors will exist in the corners of the lips because the teeth do not fully fill the mouth. Invisalign can help correct these issues by straightening the teeth and/or broadening the arches.

Teeth are like small mirrors – they have a reflective quality to them, especially when wet. If teeth are crowded or overlapped, that light reflection is disrupted.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Stains

Now, let’s assume the teeth are straight and it is the color of the teeth that is the concern. What can be done? It is important to understand the root cause of the discoloration. There are two different types of staining of our teeth – extrinsic (on the surface of the tooth) and intrinsic (within the internal portion of the tooth). Extrinsic stains are caused by our environment – what we eat, if we smoke or chew tobacco and how well we take care of our teeth. Intrinsic staining is more complex – there can be hereditary component, an age component and certain drug interactions (tetracycline staining and fluorosis).

For starters, avoiding or minimizing particular foods and drinks can reduce the discoloration of our teeth. Examples of foods that stain teeth are tomato based sauces, curry, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, berries and beetroot. Examples of drinks that discolor teeth are tea, coffee, red wine, cola, and fruit juices. After eating or drinking one of these items, you can rinse your mouth out with water or chew gum with xylitol (which can help stimulate more saliva). Another option for the liquids is to drink them through a straw. Be sure to brush at least twice a day and floss once a day to keep your teeth as clean as possible. Also, have your teeth professional cleaned at least twice a year. As an aside, smoking not only causes unsightly discoloration of the teeth but also has been linked as a significant risk factor in periodontal disease. Even worse, chewing tobacco, another product that stains the teeth, is a leading cause of oral cancer.

If the problem is intrinsic – due to heredity or aging – there are a number of excellent solutions to help you achieve a whiter, brighter smile. Don’t be fooled by “tooth whitening” toothpaste. These toothpastes are designed to remove surface stains and they do not change the natural color of your teeth. Some of these toothpastes can be too abrasive and may actually wear away the enamel which makes the problem worse since the underlying layer (the dentin) has a yellowish cast. A good choice for younger patients (age 12 and older) is Crest Whitestrips. These strips use hydrogen peroxide to bleach the teeth to lighten them. However, as with any tooth-bleaching product, they can make the teeth sensitive if used for too long or for too many days in a row. This is an inexpensive solution but may not work on tougher intrinsic stains.

Keeping your smile white and bright

The most predictable results are obtained by going to your dentist and having bleaching trays made for “at home” whitening or doing “in house” whitening at the office for an immediate result. Impressive outcomes can be obtained with either option, but as with most cosmetic procedures, continued upkeep is necessary to keep that beautiful smile white and bright!

If you have questions about the benefits of Invisalign treatment, please call Visage Orthodontics to schedule a visit with Dr. Tanner, your Santa Fe Invisalign specialist. Dr. Tanner will review everything in detail and develop a customized treatment plan to fit your lifestyle and budget.

A confident and beautiful smile is right around the corner!