Do whitening strips damage your teeth?

Whitening: Strip Stains

Good old-fashioned toothpaste and some ingredients in really, really old-fashioned tooth cleaning recipes can help whiten teeth. As one of two categories of whiteners, the first being bleaching methods such as strips, the ADA lists dentifrices, better known as toothpastes. While bleaching whiteners work at getting into the stains and breaking them apart, they don't work for everyone. Toothpastes with whitening chemicals and gentle abrasives can buff away surface stains and polish teeth to a smooth shine. Baking soda has been used for hundreds of years as a tooth cleaner, and when used gently, within a dentist's recommendations, it cleans and whitens effectively.

Some foods are known to be whiteners, and strawberries, though vivid red, actually help in whitening because they contain acids that break down stains. Strawberries and other fruits known for helping to clean teeth, like apples, do also contain sugars, so after eating them or using them to polish tooth surfaces, it's important to brush and remove the sugar and excess acids rather than letting them sit on the teeth where stains can build up.

And while fruits might help remove stains, avoiding or changing habits with stain-causing food and drinks can have a dramatic effect on tooth color. Coffee, tea and wine drinkers can use straws or sip-type cups to keep liquids from washing over teeth surfaces, and adding a regular tooth brushing after each meal and sugary snack will help remove those stain-causing sugars and acids.

Cosmetic dentistry is another option for whitening teeth that don't respond to OTC or other whitening products, and in fact, many of the rich and famous whose teeth inspire the not-so rich and famous to get pearlier whites have their teeth covered in veneers to change their own teeth's shape, texture and color.

Capping and veneering can be very expensive, but some less intensive cosmetic changes also can help. Wearing cool colors and avoiding a lot of yellows and browns close to the lower face, where they can accentuate any yellowing or browning in the teeth is one easy way to give the appearance of whiter teeth. And women can use lipsticks with cooler, blue and purple-based tones instead of orange and flat warm brown tones to make their smiles look whiter rather than more yellow.

Whether eating strawberries or lisping your way through a box of whitening strips, doing anything that increases how much you smile probably has the greatest impact on appearance.

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Related Articles

  • American Dental Association (ADA). "Statement on the Safety and Effectiveness of Tooth Whitening Products." February 2008. (Aug. 24, 2011)
  • American Dental Association (ADA). "Tooth Whitening." 2011 (Aug. 23, 2011)
  • American Dental Association (ADA) Council on Scientific Affairs. "Tooth Whitening/Bleaching: Treatment Considerations for Dentists and Their Patients." November 2010. (Aug. 23, 2011)
  • Mapes, Diane. "Blindingly White: Teeth Bleaching Gone Too Far." Jan. 17, 2007. (Aug. 23, 2011)
  • National Museum of Dentistry. "I Cannot Tell a Lie: George Washington's Teeth." 2000. (Aug. 23, 2011).