Uncritical bleaching - facts nobody told you

Teeth: A beautiful smile: what you can do for it - or better leave it

White teeth radiate health and competence. It is too bad for you if you do not have one. How can that be changed?

Rusty nails, pickled in vinegar and tea, with tannic acid and a shot of urine: For a long time, the smile of Japanese women was made of this material. They brushed the tincture on their teeth until they glowed black - black as the night. These darkened teeth were considered subject to the day and at the same time inseparably connected with it. Quite as it should keep the woman with the man, black teeth were a must for every spouse. And also for every samurai. The warriors also demonstrated allegiance to their feudal lord with the gloomy bite. Even the ladies in the brothel areas smiled darkly: black teeth must have radiated erotic glamor in ancient Japan.

This method looks almost like the negative of the current beauty trend. Teeth should be white today, entirely and straight. An even, radiant dentition signals proper nutrition and disciplined care, and for many in general health, even success. White teeth are status symbols.

Shiny colors influence our behavior

How much the color of the teeth can affect the image that others make of us is shown by an experiment by the dentistry psychologist (yes, that's what they actually do!) Brandon Shaw: He gave test subjects three different versions of portrait photos before, once he had whitened the teeth of the persons shown by image editing, once provided with signs of decay and once left natural. Subjects should evaluate how socially competent, intelligent and mentally stable the persons were. Shaw suggested people would prefer natural-looking teeth. But the best grades got the digitally whitened variants.

Daily life darkens our teeth

How unfavorable that all sorts of food and luxury products make the beautiful enamel melt: coffee, tea, red wine, fruit juices and of course nicotine. A bewildering array of bleaching agents and extra-white toothpaste are filling the drugstore shelves, dentists offer "in-office" and "home-bleachings," and a host of curious home remedies are circulating on the Internet. What works of it? And what does it harm?

Hair and teeth - all the same?

Despite the variety of remedies, it is always the same substance that bleaches your teeth: hydrogen peroxide, the same material that lightens hair. It is usually applied to the teeth in the form of a gel, penetrates the enamel and discolors the pigments that have been deposited. So they do not disappear, you do not see them anymore.

How well and how fast the substance works depends on its concentration. If the bleaching gel is particularly high-dose, only a dentist may use it in his office (in-office bleaching). Then two to four sessions of about half an hour can be enough. The gum must be covered very carefully so that it does not take any damage. UV light or laser can additionally accelerate the process. Both heat the gel, releasing the hydrogen peroxide faster. At lower concentrations, the gel must act daily for several weeks daily for several hours. For this method, the dentist makes splints that are filled with the gel at home and worn overnight (home bleaching).

Most procedures work well. Whichever is the best, but hard to say, many studies are supported by the industry, so you have to be very careful, my dentist told me. He advises against light and laser since too much heat can irritate the pulp, i.e., the inside of the tooth: "Such a laser device is rather a nice gadget for the dentist."

Drugstore heaven – drugstore hell

Experts do not recommend the do-it-yourself agents from the drugstore - not because they are dangerous, but because they hardly work. They contain very little hydrogen peroxide, at most 0.1 percent are still allowed in free sales. Dyeing is fundamentally not dangerous, according to an opinion of the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products of the European Commission. According to most studies, they cannot damage the enamel, but some studies found porous spots. Whether bleaching could have long-term side effects has not been tested. Also, hydrogen peroxide is suspected to increase the risk of oral cancer in people who are already at risk, whether through smoking, alcohol abuse or genetic predisposition. However, the scientific evidence for a connection is thin: There are only animal experiments, individual case studies and a survey among cancer patients with very few participants. In any case, smokers should not overdo it with bleaching, because repeated use may increase the risk.

Short-term side effects are common, but are rather harmless: the teeth can be more sensitive to cold and heat and less resistant to abrasion. Too often you should not resort to bleach, at most every few years. It is essential to have the teeth checked by the doctor before bleaching. Through caries holes, leaky fillings or crowns, the bleach can penetrate deeper into the tooth, irritate the nerve and cause pain. Besides, you should first have your teeth cleaned by a professional - and who knows, maybe they are already white enough?

Lemon juice, salt, strawberry, and even baking soda?

Bleaching, who has visible fillings or crowns, should think particularly well: they will not turn white, the dentition may even look more patchy after the procedure than before. Those who have slightly grayish teeth should also be careful. Maybe this is because the enamel is particularly transparent and shines through the dark of the oral cavity. Bleaching has the opposite effect in such cases because it makes the enamel even more transparent. And with exposed tooth necks, the procedure is also not necessarily useful: Some may disturb the yellowish dentin, also called dentin, which emerges from the gums. However, only the enamel is bleached - and the contrast is even enhanced.

If the bleaching with hydrogen peroxide at the dentist seems too aggressive or expensive (the health insurance does not cover the costs), you may look for natural alternatives. On the Internet he will find it: lemon juice, salt, strawberry musk, even baking soda and cigar ashes are advertised there as a home remedy. "That's hell for teeth!" wonders my dentist. "These miracle remedies contain all acids or emollients, or even combinations of both - that can lead to severe erosions on the tooth." Even cosmetically, the seemingly gentle treatment can have an opposite effect. Because the enamel now is thinner than before, the yellowish dentin seems more through.

Special kinds of toothpaste for white teeth, on the other hand, usually protect the enamel and have a good effect, even the cheap ones. However, you can only do something about dark deposits on the teeth. Once the pigments have penetrated the tooth, they are powerless. And naturally yellowish teeth cannot make them radiantly white. In the best case, the natural color comes to light again.

However, you should not go much further when bleaching. Do not whiten beyond a natural tone. We reject the Hollywood white which is just unnatural. " However, some patients wanted a "bright white picket fence." It can sometimes conceal a psychological problem behind it, and we should also pay attention to it as a dentist. Super white teeth also do not always arouse sympathy, that had to learn a television journalist. Two years ago, when he presented the daily topics for the first time - with very, very white teeth - the audience subsequently blasphemed on Twitter. "Ambition white," someone called the shade, and a master dental technician asked, "Who did him those teeth?"

Dosed imperfection, on the other hand, is considered to be sexier today: A small, fine tooth gap, for example, seems so seductive that even top models put it on display. In Japan, the trend towards a decorative blemish is even increasing to a new, dubious ideal of beauty: young women can now have artificial crooked canines glued on them. They want to look more youthful and more childlike with it. Many men are supposed to be on it. An extraordinary cultural change, from the land of the black smile to the area of a crooked smile.