London: WHEN Simon Cowell picked up a recent award he thanked his dentist in his acceptance speech. The X Factor judge is known to be obsessed with the appearance of his teeth, even arranging for contestants to have dental makeovers before appearing on the show. It’s not just in Hollywood that a perfect set of pearly whites is essential.
In the UK, driven by celebrities such as Victoria Beckham and Katie Price, demand for cosmetic dentistry is growing at a rate of 40 percent a year. Teeth whitening, ranging from over-the-counter kits costing a few pounds to expensive veneers costing thousands, is the most popular treatment.
How to Whiten Your Teeth Naturally
However, there is growing concern among experts that in the search for the perfect smile many people are putting their teeth and gums at risk by opting for super-strong whitening solutions and using them too often.
Conventional whitening involves using hydrogen peroxide, a bleaching agent, to penetrate the surface of the tooth and make it lighter. This can be done by using a gum shield-type treatment over a few days or at the dentist where a special light is used to activate the whitening gel. This is known as power whitening or laser whitening, although there are lots of different brand names.
Karen Coates, a dental adviser for the British Dental Health Foundation, is worried about the easy availability of stronger treatments. She says: “This type of treatment is highly popular. “On the internet, I’ve come across kits which are up to 33 percent hydrogen peroxide which is much too strong.”
Dentists can make the gum shields to measure, ensuring tissue around the teeth is protected but that is not the case for internet kits. The bleach can seep, mildly burning gums and lips and leaving them sensitive. Very strong solutions could damage tooth enamel. Karen adds: “You see so many celebrities with lovely-looking teeth there is a temptation to overdo it.”
Whitening only lightens teeth slightly. To get the very white looks seen on the likes of Simon Cowell, expensive porcelain veneers are the only solution. They fit over teeth but some of the enamel has to be removed to make sure they stay in place. If the treatment is repeated too often, teeth can be damaged.
Karen says: “All these treatments are perfectly safe if done by or under the supervision of a dentist. You should be realistic about what you hope to achieve and opt for a natural look. Teeth are not supposed to be very white. If you’re using a kit at home, stop the treatment if there’s any pain or sensitivity.”
“They have seen them on television but the whiter you go the more fake they look,” he says. “Even in America, the trend now is towards a more natural look.” Dentists should discuss the different shades available before starting treatment, he adds.
Only dentists and hygienists are authorized to perform teeth whitening but hundreds of beauty salons now offer the treatments at much lower prices. That is fine if they employ a dentist but illegal if not. It’s claimed some salons are using chlorine dioxide, a chemical normally used for industrial purposes. This can actually darken the teeth and wreck tooth enamel.
Before having whitening treatment, it’s recommended that you have your teeth cleaned by a hygienist to remove surface plaque which will prevent the solutions from working. Dr. Kanaan adds: “I’m even seeing stands in shopping centers now where they are offering teeth whitening for £99. Unfortunately, people just see the savings and don’t realize the potential risks.”
The General Dental Council has had hundreds of complaints about illegal teeth whitening but so far there have been only a handful of prosecutions. The GDC says anyone considering teeth whitening should consult their dentist. “We are exploring ways of tackling the issue of beauty salons offering teeth whitening,” adds a spokeswoman. In the meantime, the GDC is writing to salons which it suspects are breaking the law. via express