People would generally agree that overall, the Internet is making things better for us, though in some ways it’s making things worse. Social media, in particular Instagram, where everyone has the opportunity to share too much about their lives, deals people blows to their self-esteem as they compare themselves to perfectly engineered images found on those platforms. Social media also helps spread misinformation in the form of health and beauty advice that can result in more harm than good. A prime example that we see all too often in our office is the result of misinformation about teeth whitening.
First, of all, it seems like our expectations about things like how white your teeth should be have changed over time. 25 years ago, fewer people really cared much about how white their teeth were unless they were unnaturally stained or discoloured. Now that the internet and social media are filled with people with sparkling bright white smiles, our expectations have changed. One patient recently told us that she caught her 8-year-old daughter scrubbing so hard with her toothbrush that the gums above her front teeth were bleeding. The little girl was concerned that her new adult teeth were not as white as the baby teeth surrounding them but couldn’t brush the stains away. The reason for that is a topic for another blog, but the point is that social media has helped do this to us and in the process is risking healthy smiles, even in young children!
Is Instagram telling you about the dangers?
Over-the-counter teeth whitening products are inexpensive and are very popular, although they don’t really work very well. Compared to a professional teeth whitening procedure, whitening strips may cost less but are much less effective, and the results don’t last. These products work by etching a small amount of enamel off of your teeth and replacing it with a compound that reflects light very well. Eventually, that reflective coating wears off and you need to repeat the procedure again. Each time, a little bit more of the enamel wears off of the surface of your tooth, weakening it and allowing the yellow dentin to show through.
As inexpensive as they are, many teenagers can’t afford the cost of over-the-counter whitening strips, so they turn to ‘natural’ teeth whitening methods that can be found all over the internet. These methods range from using different fruits mixed with baking soda to apple cider vinegar, activated charcoal, hydrogen peroxide and others that claim to whiten teeth—sometimes inexplicably. For example, turmeric can be used to permanently dye fabric bright yellow but it’s supposed to make your teeth whiter? Natural methods tend to be cheap and easy to use but most of them have no scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness, and what’s worse, there are no studies to prove that they are safe.
The reality is that many of these natural teeth whitening methods can actually harm your teeth in the long-run. You can easily end up with damaged gums, painful sensitivity to hot and cold, thinning enamel, and teeth that are yellower than they were before you started. In our practice, we treat people all the time who have tried these methods and now face the cost of dental veneers to repair the damage.
Thank Instagram and the rest of social media for deluging us with images of perfect people with perfect teeth. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve your smile, but be smart about it and see your dentist for a conversation about professional teeth whitening or other cosmetic treatments like dental veneers. In our practice, we take the unrealistic expectations that some patients bring to us as an opportunity to turn things around and educate patients about natural-looking smiles and how beautiful they can be without the harsh treatment that the internet suggests you give them.
Call 905.338.6684 or make an appointment with holistic dentist Dr. Agatha Bis to discuss teeth whitening and other cosmetic treatments to improve your smile. There’s no question that a whiter, brighter smile can improve your mood and boost your confidence and we can help you do it safely and with results that make your smile look healthy and natural. Oh, and by the way, we have a great Instagram feed! Check it out!