For most people, maintaining pearly white teeth becomes nearly impossible as they age. The hard, white shell that coats your teeth, called the enamel, gradually wears off. The layer that's just beneath it, called the dentin, shows through with its yellowish tint. Drinking coffee, tea and alcohol can further stain your teeth, as can tobacco use.
While discolored teeth don't affect your health, some people don't like the tint of their teeth and look to various products to make them whiter. In some cases, yellowed teeth can cause anxiety, possibly leading to social isolation or limiting full enjoyment of life.
It's now possible to improve your smile without spending too much money. Teeth whitening products have become widely available both over-the-counter and from your dentist and can be used safely by most people. However, they have some limitations, and it's important to know the risks and benefits before you begin.
Bleaching trays, made by your dentist, are filled with a bleach called carbamide peroxide, which works to remove both surface stains and underlying discoloration. You wear the trays nightly for about two weeks.
Teeth whitening treatments fall into four main categories:
- Toothpaste — Whitening toothpaste removes surface stains from the enamel. Look for the American Dental Association seal of approval on any product you buy.
- Whitening strips — These nonprescription products are thin pieces of a tape-like...
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