Many seemingly harmless oral care products are marketed as beneficial to the health and beauty of your smile. These products are often easy to use, come in unique flavors, and promise fast results, but they can actually be harmful to your teeth over time. Here are a few things the marketing world will not tell you about some of these popular over-the-counter oral care products.
Teeth whitening strips are easily applied to the teeth and can whiten your smile in as few as two weeks. They contain hydrogen peroxide, which works to whiten by penetrating the porous enamel. Oxygen is produced and reacts with the discolored enamel to chemically change it, which results in temporarily whiter teeth. The acidic chemical reaction weakens the outer layer of the enamel and can cause it to erode over time. In some cases, the damage done to the enamel is permanent, and the teeth can become darkened and even more susceptible to staining than they were to begin with.
It is far better to seek teeth whitening from a dental professional. A dentist will check your teeth first to ensure that your discoloration is not the outcome of a more serious concern, such as an abscessed tooth or decay. Whitening under the supervision of a dentist can prevent burns and other potentially serious damage that over-the-counter products can cause.
We know that acidic foods and beverages eat away at our enamel, but have you considered the acidity in your whitening toothpaste? The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, and the lower the number, the more acidic the substance. Demineralization and thus enamel erosion can begin to occur at a pH level of 5.5. Some over-the-counter brands of whitening toothpaste have an acidity level as low as 3.76, which can significantly weaken your enamel over time. It is best to use toothpaste that is pH balanced. Since many toothpastes do not typically have the accurate pH level listed on the label, it is best to consult your dentist for his or her best recommendation. If your teeth are already sensitive and your enamel is weak, Dr. Sands can recommend a product that will help restore and strengthen your teeth.
One might think that a hard-bristled toothbrush would be the perfect tool to get teeth sparkling clean, but it can actually damage the teeth. Toothpaste is already somewhat abrasive, and adding harsh scrubbing with hard bristles can further scrape away enamel. The damage is even worse if the teeth are brushed soon after eating or drinking something acidic. The acid softens the enamel, and hard brushing etches away at the top layers. Choose a soft-bristled toothbrush or an electric toothbrush for the best and safest results.
Some brands of chewing gum use xylitol instead of sugar as the main ingredient. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that is said to prevent cavities and reduce plaque. Many brands promote this advantage, but the negative effects of chewing gum outweigh any benefits. Chewing gum in excess can leave sticky spots on the teeth that attract food and bacteria. It can also potentially pull out fillings and stress the jaw over time. You can freshen your breath occasionally with sugar-free breath mints and increase bacteria-fighting saliva production by staying well-hydrated.
If you are looking for safe, effective whitening treatments or oral care, please visit Dr. Sands. Schedule your appointment today by calling (310) 273-0111.