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The basics of teeth whitening

The Ontario Dental Association understands wanting to look your best when you say “cheese!”

But are your teeth healthy enough?

For soft or eroded tooth enamel, sensitive teeth, and restorative dental work, tooth whitening products may cause damage to your teeth.

Before you slap on a whitening strip, it's important to understand why teeth become discoloured in the first place and the various ways that may be reversed.

Teeth aren't naturally white! The search for a bright white smile isn't one based on reality because natural teeth have gray or yellow shades to them.

Your skin tone, and any use of make-up, also can affect how white your teeth appear.

How do teeth stain? It happens naturally with age, if you drink tea or coffee, and if you like to eat certain foods, like berries.

They all leave a mark on your teeth over time, as does smoking and chewing tobacco.

Surface whiteners include toothpaste or chewing gum containing mild abrasives to help lessen the severity of surface stains, but they don't replace a proper cleaning at the dentist.

Bleaching products usually have a peroxide base and are safe to use on healthy teeth, but can cause irritation in the soft tissues of the mouth, like along the gum line.

For the best and safest results, always discuss use of these products with your dentist first.

“It's a good idea to talk to your dentist before undergoing any teeth whitening treatments, either at the dentist's office or doing it yourself at home,” said ODA president Dr. Jack McLister.

“They can tell you if your teeth are strong enough to handle bleaching products and which, if any, method is suitable for you, and what kind of realistic results you can expect from the treatment,” he noted.

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