Summer Smile Season

Jul 01,2024

Summer Smile Season

"Smile season" is upon us: graduations, weddings, outdoor parties... All occasions where your smile will be noticed and photographed. Almost everyone who comes to our office in Darien, CT wants to brighten their smile this "season" so this would be a good time to answer common questions and give fun facts about tooth color and whitening.

Outside of my private practice treating patients, I have spent a considerable amount of time researching tooth color and how it can be analyzed. Through this research and looking at literally thousands of teeth, here is a basic color principle to keep in mind: color is a sensation. Yes, colors are not the same for everyone, or in every light, or in every environment. Simultaneous contrast is a phenomenon that happens when two adjacent colors influence each other, changing our perception of these colors (more or less saturated, more or less bright). For example your teeth appear whiter and brighter if your skin gets darker after you have been in the sun. If you are wondering - did the sun bleach my teeth? No. Because the sun tanned your skin, your teeth appear whiter. This simultaneous contrast also happens if you put a lipstick on - especially a darker lipstick in the pink or red family. Again, something darker next to the teeth makes the teeth appear lighter and brighter.

So if the light of the sun can't bleach your teeth, what about those lights you sometimes see being used as part of a bleaching kit? Research from the University of Colorado reports that if you put the same concentration of bleach on a patient’s teeth, sit them down for the same period of time, and shine a light on one group and not the other, they will ultimately wind up with the same difference in tooth color. The light will not make any difference in the whitening. Additionally, if the light creates heat, that can be harmful to the nerve of the tooth.

Final summer smile question: Can brushing with salt water, or rinsing with salt water, whitening your teeth? Again, no. While brushing your teeth with salt can offer some benefits, it is not a comprehensive oral hygiene solution. The abrasive nature of salt can lead to enamel erosion and gum irritation when used excessively. As an occasional remedy, a saltwater mouth rinse can provide relief for minor oral issues. Salt will not whiten the enamel. However, a very good stain remover that is gentle on your enamel is baking soda. If used with your toothpaste, it can remove stains and plaque and improve the brightness of your teeth a shade or two.

So what are our summer smile takeaways?
1. The sun cannot whiten your teeth. Your teeth may appear whiter if you have been in the sun due to the contrast of your tanned skin next to your teeth.
2. Heat cannot whiten your teeth, and can be harmful to the nerve of your teeth.
3. Salt water, although helpful for minor mouth sores, will not whiten your teeth.

The best way to have your whitest, brightest summer smile is to get a professional tooth cleaning and speak with us at Maryann Lehmann, DDS about professional tooth whitening options!