High-definition television, photography, and media have skewed the public’s perceptions of what natural teeth look like in the western world, particularly in America. In addition to higher detailed images of teeth, there’s also the influence of photo manipulation software that has allowed designers of ads and pop culture media to alter and “perfect” human features, like making teeth appear impossibly white, straight, and flawless.
As society has been exposed to these images for almost two decades now, white teeth have become the most popular elective dental request, along with veneers, which also alter not only tooth color but shape as well. Unfortunately, this has also caused many to be misled into thinking that white teeth are inherently superior and healthier than “normal” teeth, which are very rarely the shade of hyper-white that is seen in ads, Hollywood, or on people who have extensively whitened their teeth either at home or professionally.
In fact, the whitening phenomenon has caused people to forego routine checkups and procedures because they are so focused on the outward appearance of teeth. At the same time, they are, in actuality, not as healthy as they appear. Breaking down the myth that white teeth are always healthy will dispel some of the misguided attitudes people have come to hold towards regular looking teeth that do not resemble those on magazine covers.
What Determines Tooth Color?
Because we have strayed so far away from “natural” looking teeth, people may not realize that unbleached teeth that are perfectly healthy can appear in a range of hues from off-white to slightly more yellow or grey. Tooth color is determined partially by genetics but also by age and drinking and eating habits. While the intrinsic color of teeth is inherited, stains from aging, medications, smoking, eating, and drinking cause staining, sometimes drastically changing how teeth appear. Ingesting highly acidic or artificially colored foods or drinks can weaken tooth enamel, making the staining process happen much quicker. Things like dark teas, juices, wine, smoking and chewing tobacco, and eating heavily pigmented foods can all affect the color or brightness of teeth over time, even with regular brushing.
Are Discolored Teeth Unhealthy?
The discoloration of teeth, in general, doesn’t always mean that they are damaged. Still, sometimes heavy stains come from habits that will ultimately damage teeth in ways that can’t be seen superficially. Because the choices that go hand-in-hand with tooth discoloration are often harmful to teeth, deep shades of color variation can be a red flag that there is wear and tear to the enamel. Smoking or chewing tobacco and eating highly acidic foods weaken the paint, which can cause more frequent cavities and decay, causing more problems than just the color of the teeth themselves.
Are White Teeth Usually Healthy?
With modern-day at-home whitening kits, more and more dental professionals are seeing patients come in with blindingly white, cavity riddled teeth. More so, they are noticing people who are using bleaching strips and trays that have advanced plaque buildup around the gum line that is being bleached white by these at-home products. In essence, many people are fooling themselves into thinking their teeth are in great shape solely because they are always focusing on their color, but not the essential matters like flossing and checking for decay. One of the reasons these people avoid the dentist maybe because they spend so much money on expensive at-home whitening solutions that they fear they don’t have the means to pay for a checkup or cleaning.
They also may be avoidant because they have achieved an advanced level of tooth sensitivity by overusing these highly abrasive products. While various dental institutions approve some DIY whitening products, many are not, and even the ones that are official, are rarely used as advised. Over-bleaching to achieve professional results will always end in more damage to enamel for less-impressive results, leading to more severe issues of painful sensitivity. Those who experience this will often feel ashamed or embarrassed to see a dentist. Still, it’s highly advised to seek out a professional in these situations to prevent any further damage.
So, in short, no– white teeth certainly are not always healthy, and with recent teeth-whitening fads, it seems that the contrary is usually true.
Best Method for White and Healthy Teeth
Since white teeth aren’t always healthy, and healthy teeth aren’t always strikingly white, the dental industry has found itself at a crossroads to appease patients seeking the best of both worlds. The key to having healthy teeth is mostly a personal responsibility of maintaining proper oral hygiene through regular flossing and brushing, as well as avoiding damaging habits that can harm teeth. But even with the most efficient of personal habits, the level of whiteness that is seen in the media can’t always be achieved. That’s why many dentists now offer in-office whitening procedures that are done under professional supervision to ensure safety and results. Along with these whitening procedures, dentists can also provide custom-made whitening trays and professional whitening gels to upkeep professional level whiteness upon whitening treatments. These personalized trays are made specifically for each individual patient’s mouth to ensure each tooth is as white as possible, especially between the teeth, where most of the discoloration remains after doing at-home strips or general unfitted trays.
For those who are unhappy with more than just the shade of white their teeth are sporting, perhaps after several attempts at whitening, there are other options like ceramic veneers that can improve the brightness and shape of the teeth without constant bleaching or timely orthodontic work. Ultimately, dentists will always prefer that patients focus on the health of their teeth rather than exterior aesthetics. Still, with beauty standards and pressures at an all-time high, there are safe and proven methods that are available through dental professionals to achieve both healthy and Hollywood-white smiles at the same time.
Speak to your dentist today about whitening options if you desire to achieve the healthiest and whitest teeth possible.