Play it safe for a brighter, whiter smile

Drinking milk for healthy teeth

A radiant white smile is definitely attractive. But for many people, it's difficult to keep that radiant smile. Maybe they drink coffee or tea. Or they enjoy red wine. Or they use tobacco. All these products can dull a bright, white smile. So today, many people use tooth whitening.

According to Readers Digest, most dental professionals consider tooth whitening safe. But you should know both the positives and negatives of tooth whiteners.

The first rule is to always read the labels on over-the-counter tooth-whitening products. You shouldn't use tooth-whitening bleaches more than the directions say. Research shows that some of these wear away tiny amounts of your tooth enamel. If you lose too much enamel, it can lead to sensitive teeth and tooth decay.

Tooth-whitening products work by using bleaches. These bleaches are generally safe. Studies have shown that these chemicals do not raise your risk for oral cancer. But if you're pregnant or nursing, experts say you should not use them.

Many people who use tooth whiteners say they have more tooth sensitivity. That's because the main bleach used is hydrogen peroxide. This will soak through the protective outer coating of your enamel. Once hydrogen peroxide gets into the enamel, it can irritate the nerve-rich dental pulp.

You can also experience tooth sensitivity if you have dental fillings and use whiteners. Many people who use whitening trays get short-term gum irritation, too. The good news is the sensitivity goes away in a few days.

Real Simple magazine has one other warning. Be careful if you use a variety of tooth whitening products. You can achieve a result that is so white that your teeth will look fake.

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