Beauty Buzz: Little White Lies

There’s just something about a great smile. It never fails to draw attention. That’s why professional teeth whitening has become so popular in recent years. But there’s plenty of misinformation out there about the process, so we sat down with Dr. Ann Hubbs of Life Style Dentistry to get help debunking the most prevalent myths.

Myth: Having your teeth professionally whitened takes a long time.

Fact: Actually, it takes about two hours at the dentist’s office.

Myth: When you have your teeth professionally whitened, it hurts and makes your teeth overly sensitive.

Fact: For two weeks prior to the whitening appointment, Dr. Hubbs asks patients to brush their teeth with a special de-sensitizing toothpaste which helps prepare the teeth for the procedure and minimizes any sensitivity.

Myth: The over-the-counter stuff works just as well as the professional methods.

Fact: Teeth are whitened by the concentration of the bleaching agent as well as a good carrier or application system. Custom fabricated trays, such as those made from impressions in the dental office, are the best. Dr. Hubbs said most over-the-counter bleaching kits contain around 6% to 8% of the bleaching agent with a tray or other carrier system that doesn’t isolate the teeth or whitening agent from saliva and the tissues to allow optimal results. The professional whitening kits will contain 7% to 30% of the whitening agent and must use a specially designed tray system to avoid chemical burning of the tissue. In-office whitening procedures will use up to 38% whitening agent with several applications during a two-hour session.

Myth: Everyone can have their teeth whitened.

Fact: Sadly, there are some people whose teeth just won’t lighten up as well, no matter how hard the patient or dentist tries. People whose teeth have a grayish or brownish hue may not get as good a result as people whose teeth are more yellowish, but it’s always worth a try when trying achieve optimal results along with other cosmetic prodecures, said Dr. Hubbs.

If you have had bonding, tooth-colored fillings or crowns in your front teeth, bleaching doesn’t work because it won’t affect the color of these materials. If you whiten the rest of your teeth, those bonded areas or fillings will stand out.

If your mother took the antibiotic tetracycline while she was pregnant, you may have brownish gray banding on your teeth which won’t respond as well to professional teeth whitening.

Myth: Whitening your teeth damages the tooth enamel. It’s not safe.

Fact: “It doesn’t weaken or strengthen your tooth enamel,” said Dr. Hubbs. “It is safe and there are no side effects.” Dr. Hubbs is so certain of it that she allowed the procedure to be done on her own teenage daughter who wanted some whitening for a special event.

Myth: Smokers can have their teeth professionally whitened.

Fact: This one is true only AFTER the smoker has quit the habit. Dr. Hubbs said that if a patient smokes during the two-week whitening period, he or she will reverse the effects of whitening and is likely to permanently stain the teeth.

Myth: You can’t over-whiten your teeth.

Fact: Oh, yes you can. Dr. Hubbs often sees patients who’ve gone a little overboard with whitening products. Overuse of whitening agents can cause the teeth to take on a translucent appearance that looks unhealthy. “Whitening is just like anything else. You can over do it,” said Dr. Hubbs. She recommends against using multiple products that all contain whitening agents (toothpaste, whitening strips, mouthwash, etc.). “Choose one good whitening system and stick with that,” she said. “Over-using multiple products can cause tooth sensitivity.”

Myth: The effects of professional teeth whitening don’t last very long.

Fact: Nothing lasts forever, and that holds true for teeth whitening as well. But Dr. Hubbs said it’s not uncommon to see a professional teeth whitening last up to five years, especially if it’s touched up along the way. Lifestyle choices also affect how long your teeth stay white. Coffee, cola and tea can stain teeth. (Dr. Hubbs recommends drinking through a straw when possible, especially with green tea which can really stain teeth.) Certain vegetables and even spices can also contribute to tooth discoloration.

Myth: It’s really expensive.

Fact: The word “expensive” is in the eye of the consumer, so that may be true for some people. But others just assume the procedure is financially out of reach before they ever check around for prices. You may be surprised to learn that a professional at-home whitening system (prescribed by your dentist) costs about $300.00. The in-office teeth whitening procedure costs about $600.00.

To learn more about teeth whitening options, visit Dr. Hubbs online by clicking here. Or call to schedule an appointment at her spa-like dentist office, call 479-636-8700. Life Style Dentistry is located in the Tuscany Square shopping plaza across from the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Pleasant Grove Road in Rogers. To read more about the practice, click here to read our profile of Life Style Dentistry, published in June 2008.