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    Teeth Whitening Safety Tips

    Dazzling smiles seem to be within everyone's reach, thanks to the booming teeth-whitening business. From over-the-counter strips to treatments in a dentist's office, you have a lot of options for brightening up stained or darkened teeth.

    Side effects aren't common when you use at-home products as directed, but they can happen. Before you start a do-it-yourself whitening routine, though, learn how to keep your smile safe.

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    See Your Dentist First

    Get a professional cleaning and mouth exam, even if you decide to whiten your teeth at home. You might only need a thorough cleaning to restore your smile's sparkle.

    Your dentist will also look for cavities and check the health of your gums during the exam. Treating any problems before you whiten is safer for your mouth.

    Ask your dentist about which over-the-counter system to use and how much lightening you can expect. Teeth do darken with age, and the amount of color change varies from person to person.

    Shop Wisely

    At-home whiteners have peroxides, typically carbamide peroxide, in amounts ranging from 10% to 20%.

    Choose a product with a peroxide level somewhere in the middle of that range. If the product doesn’t bother your mouth but doesn’t provide the lightening effect you want, you can choose a higher level. If you have any questions, your dentist can help you find the whitener that best fits your needs.

    Follow Directions

    Don’t leave the strips or gels on longer than advised -- you might wind up with sore gums and set yourself up for other problems.

    After you whiten, avoid soda, sports drinks, or other acidic beverages for a couple of hours to protect your teeth.

    When Not to Whiten

    To be on the safe side, pregnant women or nursing mothers should postpone teeth whitening.

    Porcelain or composite dental crowns and bondings won't lighten up. So if you change the color of the teeth around them, you might wind up with an uneven smile.

    Protect Sensitive Teeth

    Your teeth may become mildly sensitive after you whiten, but it’s usually short term. It might be less of an issue if your teeth and gums are in good shape. If it bothers you, stop the treatment and talk to your dentist.

    Gel-filled trays, which you wear over your teeth like a mouth guard, can also bother your gums if they don't fit well. It’s a good idea to stop using the product if you start having this problem.

    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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    You are currently

    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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