Category Archives: Teeth Whitening

For whiter teeth do i brush before or after tea?

I had teeth whitening done about a month ago and am hoping to maintain the results as long as possible. However, I’m getting conflicting information as to whether I should be brushing before or after my tea. One person said that if I brush before, I’m opening up pores on my teeth and they’ll pick up stains quicker. Another person said that if I brush after tea, which is what I’ve been doing to get the tea off my teeth quickly, I’ll damage my teeth because the tea is acidic. Which is correct?

Thank you,

Maya

Dear Maya,

womean covering her mouth with her hand
When your teeth are stained it can be embarrassing to smile.

You’re asking good questions. Your teeth whitening results will last longer if you’re mindful with your tea habits. Ideally, you’d give up tea, but since that’s probably not realistic, let’s focus on what you can do when you indulge anyway.

Drink in One Session and Don’t Sip for a Prolonged Period of Time

It sounds like you’ve got this one nailed, but it’s worth mentioning. People who sip on tea and coffee all morning or all day pick up stains faster than those who finish their drinks in one go.

It’s Ok to Brush Before Tea

The concept of “pores” opening when you brush is an urban legend. While you do have tubules in your teeth, they have plugs in them. Very few things disrupt those plugs, but it’s generally restricted to things that happen in the dental chair, such as restorative work and professional teeth whitening.

The tubules develop new plugs within a day or two, so you’d want to avoid tea during that span so you don’t sabotage your efforts but otherwise, you’re good to go in that department.

Be Wary of Brushing After Tea

The problem with acidic foods and beverages is that they lower the pH of your mouth. Ideally, it should be closer to a 7.0, but a little variation in either direction isn’t too much cause for concern. When your mouth is more on the acidic side (anything below 7.0), your teeth demineralize. That means they lose calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals that make them strong and block decay. Your enamel and dentin will also soften for a period of time after consuming an acidic beverage.

However, as your pH returns to normal, they’ll pick up the minerals in your saliva (remineralize) and will harden again. Problems set in when you either don’t provide your teeth with an environment to remineralize or you brush while the enamel is still “soft.” In doing so, you can actually remove the softened layer and it doesn’t grow back. That’s referred to as acid erosion, though there are several alternate causes of it.

For the record, black tea is usually a 4.9-5.5 pH, making it one of the more acidic things you can introduce into your mouth, though it will vary depending on how you brew it and other factors. Coffee is usually around a 4.5- 6.0 pH, for comparison. Sodas and juices—especially citrus juice—can go as low as 2.0. Battery acid is a 0.0.

Rinse or Rebalance After Tea Instead of Brushing

One of the easiest ways to remove any residual tea is to give your mouth a quick rinse with water after you finish. If you have concerns about acid erosion or demineralization, you can also restore balance by using a pH neutral mouthwash after or by mixing one part baking soda to eight parts water and rinsing with that.

Fluoride may be an alternative to help create stronger teeth as well, though it obviously does nothing for staining. It doesn’t work in exactly the same way minerals will, but it also isn’t quite as sensitive to environmental factors, which is why it’s been trusted as a cavity-fighting tool for generations.

This blog is sponsored by New Orleans Dentist Dr. Duane Delaune.

when porcelain veneers are an overtreatment

I talked to my dentist about getting my teeth whiter. I was thinking of teeth whitening, but he suggested I get porcelain veneers. He said then he could whiten my teeth and close a small gap I have at the same time. While I like the idea of not having my tooth gap any longer, the price he quoted me is pretty high. Could I whiten my teeth and then get the porcelain veneers later when I have the money?

Macey

Dear Macey,

custom-fitted teeth whitening trays

I am not comfortable with your dentist’s recommendation. To me, if you just want your teeth whitened, porcelain veneers are a massive (and expensive) overtreatment.

Porcelain veneers are a procedure for patients looking for a total smile makeover. It is the go-to procedures for celebrities looking for that perfect smile. They can simultaneously change the shape, size, and color of your teeth.

Yes, they can close your tooth gap, and you could get your teeth whitening done and then later get porcelain veneers, but you could close your tooth gap at a much lower cost with dental bonding. In fact, that’s what I’m going to suggest you do.

I want you to get your teeth whitened. Then, after a couple of weeks when the color has had time to settle, see a cosmetic dentist to close the gap in your front teeth.

Because this procedure is done free-hand, it really needs to be done by a skilled cosmetic dentist.

I’m going to suggest you look on mynewsmile.com to see their list of recommended cosmetic dentists in your area. They prescreen each dentist who wishes to be listed for both technical skill as well as artistry. Any one of their listed dentists will provide you will stunning results.

This blog is brought to you by New Orleans Dentist Dr. Duane Delaune.

does teeth whitening cause cavities?

I’ve been doing teeth whitening off and on for most of my adult life. I take a lot of pride in my appearance and having a bright smile is important to me. Nobody ever said that it could damage my smile. To be fair, I don’t get a lot of cavities, but my teeth are more sensitive these days and I hear that’s a warning sign. Since I started reading up on it, I’ve stopped using whitening toothpastes and do not plan to use the system I got from my dentist anymore, but I’m worried I’ve caused irreversible damage. If it has caused damage, is there anything I can do to reduce the risk?

Sincerely,

Thad

Dear Thad,

custom-fitted teeth whitening trays

It sounds like you got a mix of inaccurate information and half-truths. Let’s break down what healthy teeth are like, how cavities form, and how teeth whitening products work.

Your Enamel is Strong and Packed with Minerals

Your enamel is the hardest substance in your body and it protects the under layers of your teeth. However, the enamel shouldn’t be thought of as unchangeable or impermeable. For example, people who brush really hard or grind their teeth can wear it down over time. Plus, acid can cause the minerals to seep out of your teeth which leaves them susceptible to decay. And, believe it or not, your teeth are actually porous as well. Your tubuals, which provide a pathway from the outside of your tooth to the inside, are typically closed shut though.

Under Optimal Circumstances, Your Teeth Will Remineralize

Bacteria and the things you put in your mouth, including food and dental products, can change your oral pH, and once you have an acidic mouth, teeth demineralize. The opposite is true as well. If you can restore pH and have healthy minerals in your saliva, your teeth will pick them up. This in mind, if you constantly create an acidic environment and never give your teeth a chance to remineralize, you will have weak spots in the enamel and decay can set in. This is why fluoride is such a huge thing. It can strengthen teeth even if they aren’t given the ideal remineralization environment.

Teeth Whitening Products are NOT Inherently Dangerous

Products designed to whiten your smile are not the enemy, but they do come with some side-effects, depending on what you’re using.

Acidic Products: Generally speaking, teeth whitening products are acidic, but not all are. That’s a worry if you constantly use one that is lower than a 7.0 pH and never get your mouth back to the neutral state or aren’t using fluoride to help remineralize. Chances are, however, you’re using a fluoride toothpaste. Unless you’ve actively looked for one that isn’t, it’s standard practice to include it. You may also struggle with this more if you aren’t a great brusher or delight in acidic or sugary foods, such as coffee, sports drinks, citrus fruits, and sodas. (The bacteria which causes decay noshes on carbohydrates and releases acids as a byproduct, which is why sugars contribute too.)

Abrasive Products: Many toothpastes lift surface stains with their abrasiveness. If you’re using a whitening toothpaste, there is some chance it’s abrasive and wearing down the enamel. As the enamel thins, you’ll have more sensitivity and may be more susceptible to decay. It also tends to sabotage your efforts. Many of them work by their abrasiveness removing the surface stains. Unfortunately, that also means they’re scratching your enamel which makes it easier to pick up more stains.

Professional Products: Professional-grade teeth whitening systems don’t just scrub off surface stains. They open the tubuals and oxidize from within, eliminating stains below the surface. The change is not permanent; the tubuals typically close up within a day or two. That’s why you’re told to avoid highly-staining foods and beverages altogether after treatment for a few days. Once they close back up, it’s business as usual. However, during those couple of days, you may experience some sensitivity. It doesn’t mean you’re more susceptible to decay though.

Fluoride Will Help

You don’t have to give up teeth whitening. However, you should take the sensitivity as a warning sign. Mention it to your dentist, so he can see if you’re already dealing with a cavity or have enamel erosion. If there’s no decay, fluoride, either provided in-office or via an over-the-counter gel or mouthwash, should help with any demineralization and sensitivity as well.

This blog is sponsored by New Orleans Dentist Dr. Duane Delaune.

luster premium home whitening

I’m considering whitening my teeth. I know a lot of dentists tout the Zoom Whitening because it has the light that speeds up results. I noticed that the Luster Premium Home Whitening kit has the same light. It’s significantly less money than my dentist charges for Zoom. Do you know if they get similar results?

Cath

Dear Cath,

Patient using Zoom Whitening light
Zoom Whitening Light

I’ll address the light first. Yes, with Zoom Whitening the light activates the gel and allows you to meet your maximum whiteness in just one appointment.

The light from the Luster Premium kit is too weak to have any effect. My guess it is there to associate it with Zoom and help patients feel like it is making a difference.

The main whitening ingredient in this kit is also less than legitimate. This is a pigment in their SuperWhitener, Zinc Oxide. What it does is stick to the teeth to make them appear whiter. Unfortunately, that effect is temporary and will fade away.

Sadly, the consumer won’t realize that. They’ll see the whiter teeth in the beginning and feel like it is working. Then, continue purchasing the product thinking they “re-stained” their teeth.

Best Ways to Whiten Your Teeth

If you are after whitening your teeth quickly, than Zoom is the standard. It works. However, it is pricier than other options. If the price tag is what’s bothering you, then it is more affordable to do traditional teeth whitening through your dentist.

He’ll custom design trays for your teeth and provide you with professional strength whitening gel. You’ll place the gel in the trays and wear them for a minimum period of time every day at your convenience at home.

These can also help you achieve your maximum whitening potential. It will just take a few weeks rather than one appointment. Though it does have the benefit of you getting to control the level of whitening. With Zoom, you get the maximum. Period. With at-home whitening, once you achieve the level you want, you simply stop wearing the trays and gel.

This blog is brought to you by New Orleans Dentist Dr. Duane Delaune.

Can I bleach my non-veneered teeth?

I had four porcelain veneers done several years ago. They look fine, but the teeth next to them have stained a bit and it looks weird having white teeth and not white teeth when I smile. I was thinking of getting Crest Whitestrips but don’t want to hurt the veneers. Would it be safe?

Mia

Dear Mia,

custom-fitted teeth whitening trays

Crest Whitestrips are safe for your teeth and they will whiten them some, but very slowly. They only cover a few teeth so to get the teeth you need whitened, you’ll need to cut them and try to fit them on those teeth.

I wouldn’t use other over-the-counter products. They’re not as safe. Some have citric acid and some have things which will etch the teeth to make the look whiter. Unfortunately, they also cause micro scratches on your teeth which will cause them to pick up stains.

Consider Professional Teeth Whitening

If you want to whiten them faster, you may want to consider professional teeth whitening with a dentist. They can get all the teeth you want without any damage to your porcelain veneers.

Another option would be to add porcelain veneers to the teeth which are exposed when you smile. This way you wouldn’t have to constantly worry about the discrepancy in color.

In fact, originally, your cosmetic dentist should have suggested to cover all your teeth visible when you smile. For most smiles, that would mean 6-8 veneers. Some wide smiles require up to ten.

This blog is brought to you by New Orleans Dentist Dr. Duane Delaune.

Can you whiten your teeth too much?

Teeth whitening can give you an amazingly white smile. But what if you’re hooked on it? Is it a harmless or harmful?

What’s Normal for Teeth Whitening?

Photo of teeth whitening trays in a blue case.
Teeth whitening trays

Normally, you can whiten your teeth until they reached the desired shade. It takes a few days for the shade to settle in, so after about two weeks of whitening, you should wait a few days before continuing whitening. But can you continue whiten your teeth continuously for months?

What Happens If You Overuse Teeth Whitening?

Excessive whitening can damage teeth, their roots, and your gums.

  • Teeth – Tooth enamel can wear away. If that happens, you’ll lose your brilliantly white smile and your teeth will look gray or blue instead. Your teeth can also become sensitive to heat or cold foods and beverages.
  • Gums – The gum tissue around your teeth can be burned by the chemicals in the gel or get irritated. Inflamed gum tissue leads to periodontal disease, which can cause damage your gums and teeth. In severe cases, soft-tissue grafting might be required.
  • Roots – As your gums get irritated and recede, your tooth roots will be exposed. If you continue whitening, you’ll also feel sensitivity in your roots.

Take a Break

  • Whitening might not be the right treatment – Did you realize that bleaching your teeth isn’t always the best solution for removing stains or making them whiter? Speak with your dentist before you begin whitening them. If your gums or teeth are not healthy—or if you have cavities developing—those issues should be treated first.
  • Pause between treatment – After you whiten your teeth for two weeks, take a break and let the color settle. If you want to continue whitening, only do it for a week longer. Touch-ups are only needed every few months.
  • Whitening gel – Only use FDA-approved gel. Avoid using cheap gel in packages that don’t reveal the contents.

This post is sponsored by Baton Rouge cosmetic dentist Dr. Duane Delaune.

worried teeth whitening store damaged my teeth

I’d been considering teeth whitening for a while. My dentist is pretty pricey so I had been putting it off and slowly saving. I happened to notice a new teeth whitening shop in my mall when I was window shopping. I popped in and asked some questions.

What they offered sounded great. Their workers were trained and certified teeth whitening specialists and the cost was so much less I’d already saved enough. I asked them why it was cheaper and they said it’s because they’re not running an entire dental practice and focus on one treatment which lowers their cost.

I went the next day. I’m in absolute agony. My gums feel like they’re on fire. My teeth are dark where my fillings are so they look splotchy and my dental crown didn’t whiten at all. My smile looks ridiculous and I’m in pain. Did they damage my teeth?

Karyn

Dear Karyn,

Patient using Zoom Whitening light

It’s likely true they have less overhead, but they should have invested a least a little more in some training for their employees. First, you should know there is no such thing as a “Certified Teeth Whitening Specialist”. My guess is that’s simply an internal term they use for their employee training.

If you had the procedure done in one day in the store than it was likely something like Zoom Whitening, which can be completed in one appointment.

Your gums are in pain because they neglected to protected them from the light which jump starts the whitening agents. A dentist would have placed a special coating on your gums so they’d be unaffected by the light. Without that, you get the equivalent of a severe sunburn on your gums.

To help you alleviate the pain, you can try some over the counter pain meds and salt water rinses. It won’t take it away completely, but it should take the edge off of it.

What Went Wrong

Your teeth aren’t damaged, but you will need some additional work. They should have informed you that teeth whitening only works on natural tooth structure. That’s why your teeth look splotchy and the crown is dark.

The only way to get them to match your teeth is to have them replaced. If your crown is visible, which it sounds like it is, make sure your dentist provides you with an all-porcelain crown. They look completely natural and can match your teeth exactly when done by a good cosmetic dentist.

This blog is brought to you New Orleans Dentist Dr. Duane Delaune.

Lemons for Teeth Whitening

I keep reading that lemons are a great way to naturally whiten your teeth. Is this true? I’d think the citrus acid would actually be bad for your teeth, but I’m not a dentist. So, I guess I’m asking if I can give this a try or is my amateur concern actually correct?

Lora

Dear Lora,

Lemons
Can Lemons Wash Your Teeth?

Your reasoning is spot on. The citric acid in certain fruits is a danger to teeth. In fact, I would even recommend not brushing your teeth immediately after eating or drinking citrus without first swishing some water around in your mouth. Otherwise, you are grinding the acid right into your enamel.

What citrus fruits do that is useful is kill bacteria, that’s why teeth appear brighter when using them as a “whitener”. The same is true for apple cider vinegar which is also touted as a natural way to bleach teeth. However, it kills bacteria with acetic acid.

The problem with both of those options is their corrosive nature, as you surmised. If you think about it, citrus and vinegars are used in almost all cleansers because how powerful they are at breaking things down.

Safely Whitening Your Teeth

There are two ways you can safely whiten your teeth. The first is the over-the-counter whitening strips, such as Crest Whitening strips. They do work. They’re just limited in their strength and in the number of teeth they reach. You’d have to use many kits, to get to the level of one professional treatment. This leads me to the second option.

Professional teeth whitening is the standard for safely getting your teeth as white as possible.

Teeth Whitening At-Home with Custom Trays

This is done at your convenience with trays your dentist will custom fit to your bite. You’ll inject the whitening gel into the trays and wear them for a minimum amount of time each day until you reach the level of whitening you want. In fact, that’s their biggest benefit, you control how white your teeth get. If you just want to get them as white as possible, in-office whitening is faster.

Teeth Whitening with Zoom

In office whitening allows you to whiten your teeth in just one appointment. It uses a special light system which activates the whitening solution to work faster. By the end of your appointment, your teeth will reach their maximum level of whiteness.

Talk to your dentist. He’ll help you find the right way to get the bright smile you want.

This blog is brought to you by New Orleans Dentist Dr. Duane Delaune.

Teeth Whitening Using Lemons and Baking Soda

I’ve been considering whitening my teeth. I got a quote from my dentist. It wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be, but then my friend told me she whitens her teeth with fresh lemon juice and baking soda. She has pretty teeth so I’m thinking it may actually work. Is there anything I need to be concerned about if I try this?

Lacee

Dear Lacee,

Lemons

I’m glad you wrote before you did this. Your friend may have a beautiful smile, but she won’t for long if she continues with this. Lemons contain citric acid which will eat away at her tooth enamel, leaving her vulnerable to decay. She’ll also start to develop sensitive teeth.

If you think about it, lemons and other citrus fruits are often one of the main ingredients in cleaning solutions. Hopefully, you can warn her and she can see her dentist and forestall as much damage as possible.

It’s great that you want to whiten your teeth, but it’s more important to do it safely. The tooth bleaching gel that a dentist uses is perfectly safe for your teeth. There are two different options for professional teeth whitening.

Professional Teeth Whitening Options

Your first option is to get custom made trays to do at-home teeth whitening. Your dentist will provide you with the trays and the gel you need. You choose when you wear it and for how long, with a minimum of twenty minutes.

Your second option is to have in-office whitening done. This is often done using the Zoom Whitening system. You go in for your appointment and when you come out, your teeth will be as white as possible.

One thing to be aware of is if you have any dental work, such as crowns, bridges, or fillings, they’ll have to be re-done if you want them to match the whitened teeth. Of course, that’s only necessary if they’re visible. If any crowns are on your front teeth, make sure your dentist gives you an all-porcelain crown. These look more natural.

This blog is brought to you by New Orleans Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Duane Delaune.

Can You Really Whiten Teeth with Charcoal?

My sister-in-law has been whitening her teeth using charcoal. She swears by it. I haven’t seen a ton of difference in her teeth, but I think there has been some. I have a couple of questions, though. One, does this actually work? Two, if so, is it safe?

Mandy L.

Dear Mandy,

An image of charcoal
Is Charcoal Safe for Teeth Whitening?

There are always fads in things like teeth whitening and wrinkle cream. This particular fad is because of a group of YouTubers. I worry about the impact this is having and how many people will end up ruining their teeth because of it. It’s important to ALWAYS consult your dentist before trying anything on your teeth. You obviously know to do that because you wrote the blog.

The first thing you should know is charcoal whitening is referring to activated charcoal and not the kind you use to grill your favorite burger. So, I wouldn’t run down to home depot to stock up thinking you’ll get a bright, white smile.

Here are some good things about activated charcoal:

  • It’s non-toxic, so ingesting it is perfectly safe. Some people swear by it as a detox agent.
  • It’s absorbent. This is one of the reasons people use it for detox. It also may be why it sometimes works for whitening. Certain stains can be soaked up.

Here is why you DON’T want to use charcoal for your teeth.

Everything has an abrasiveness rating. Charcoal is more abrasive than toothpaste. It’s so abrasive that it can scratch your enamel. That will lead to your teeth picking up more stains, which is counterproductive.

Safe and Effective Options to Whiten Your Teeth

If you want to do something without a dentist, those over-the-counter teeth whitening strips, such as Crest, actually do work. There are some downsides.

1. They’re not as strong as professional teeth whitening, so you have to use quite a few boxes to get the effects you can get with a dentist. With the number of boxes you’d have to purchase to get your teeth really white, you’re likely going to end up spending more money instead of saving money.

2. It only covers a few teeth (I think about six). Most people have a much wider smile than six teeth.

If you want to whiten all of your teeth at the same time with professional strength teeth whitening gel, you can do teeth whitening through your dentist. It’s still possible to do it in the privacy of your own home during a time which is convenient for you. Just tell him you want whitening trays for at-home whitening.

Finally, you can have all your teeth as white as they can possibly get in just one appointment with Zoom Whitening. This is done in-office, but usually only takes about an hour. Most offices use Zoom Whitening for this procedure, but there are other brands as well.

If You Want to do More than Whitening

If there are other things you’d love to change about your smile, porcelain veneers can give you a total smile makeover. With a skilled cosmetic dentist, they can change the shape, size, and color of your teeth all in one swoop.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Duane Delaune.