Your smile can speak volumes about your personality. But everyday vices such as tea, coffee, caffeine, cigarettes and red wine can discolour teeth. Is cosmetic surgery the only solution? To help you decide just how far you should go, we went to the experts to find out just what's involved in cosmetic surgery -- and what your alternatives are.
COSMETIC SURGERY PROCEDURE
High intensity white lights
This effective treatment is now replacing laser procedures, which can cause irreversible damage to teeth, including heat and cold sensitivity and crown damage. The white lights procedure requires one 60-90 minute session and the 24-50 per cent peroxide used whitens teeth for two months (if you eliminate all stain-inducing activities). However, for longer effects, you'll need to couple the treatment with a dentist-administered at-home technique -- either the tray technique or a whitening kit, explained below.
Cost: $800-$2000 for white lights treatment.
Dentist-administered at-home whitening or bleaching kits
Your dentist custom-fits a mouthpiece, which you fill with carbamide peroxide gel, and wear either overnight (10 per cent) or two hours a day (22 per cent). It takes 2-8 weeks to see results, depending on the potency of the gel and the degree of staining. However, carbamide peroxide (instead of the more effective hydrogen peroxide) causes heat and cold sensitivity, because the gel is acidic. As well, teeth will begin to stain as soon as you stop using the tray. The gel will make cracks in teeth look more noticeable, and won't bleach capped or bonded teeth. The tray is also available over-the-counter at drugstores; however, without the custom-fitting, the bleaching effects will be more uneven.
Cost: $1500 for dentist-administered system; $500 for over the counter technique.
Dentists who perform white light treatments recommend either Crest White Strips or Go Smile for maintenance, and if you can't afford any other technique, these kits will work for mildly stained teeth. Both kits contain hydrogen peroxide rather than carbamide peroxide, so although they have lower doses than the white lights procedure (6 per cent vs. 25-50 per cent) they're more effective than the tray technique, and there are no negative side effects. Crest White Strips can't target specific stains, but Go Smile, which is packaged in measured ampoules, is applied directly to the tooth and can reach gums and into cracks. Alternatively, Colgate Simply White has an applicator brush, which helps spot-treat, but it uses carbamide peroxide, resulting in acidic and sensitivity issues. Once you open the bottle the oxygen evaporates, which means it's ineffective after two weeks, even if you haven't finished it.
Cost: Go Smile -- $45 US for 7 ampoules. Refill: 30 ampoules for $75: Order online at www.gosmile.com. Use twice a day for two weeks. Crest White Strips -- approximately $60 for a two-week supply. Colgate Simply White -- approximately $25 for a two-week supply.