Whitening Teeth Won’t Give You A Healthy Smile

Posted on Jan 05, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Imagine riding in a friend’s car and hearing an unusual pinging obviously coming from under the hood. Let’s say you eventually mention the strange noise, only to have the friend reply, “Oh yes, I’ve been hearing it for a month but am thinking of having the car painted.”

Huh? Although it makes no sense to ignore a problem, it makes less sense that someone would choose to mask it over so they can continue to ignore it.

This is what happens, occasionally, when it comes to tooth whiteners. Although the appearance of bright, white teeth allude to having ‘clean’ teeth, the facade quickly falls away when it comes to the gums.

Having poor oral health reveals itself in several ways. In your own mouth, symptoms of periodontal disease may include tender gums that bleed easily when brushing and swollen gums in certain areas (often near back teeth).

For others, however, white teeth won’t camouflage poor dental health. An unhealthy smile may be obvious to others in the form of bad breath and a smile that shows signs of gum recession (gums that pull away from teeth, exposing tender tooth root segments) or even gums that are darker in color versus a healthy pink.

In conversations with fellow dental practitioners, we are always concerned when patients seem less concerned about having good oral health and more concerned about the appearance of their smiles. And then again, we are not surprised. It’s human nature to want to be appealing to others.

In an article published in The Cut, it included findings from one study that revealed how human nature subconsciously distorts our opinions when it comes to pretty people, even though we don’t want to acknowledge the prejudice (https://www.thecut.com/2016/05/hot-people-experience-life-differently.html):

“Harvard economist Markus Mobius and Wesleyan University economist Tanya Rosenblat published the seminal paper “Why Beauty Matters” in 1994. They found that in three different samples of workers, more attractive people consistently earned 12 to 14 percent more than unattractive people — regardless of gender — with evidence that the “labor market sorts the best-looking people into occupations where their looks are productive.” To that end, a 2012 paper found that comely real estate brokers outperformed homely colleagues. More uncomfortably, first- and sixth-graders think attractive teachers are kinder and happier, and college students thought that attractive professors were clearer, more helpful, and of higher overall quality.”

Perhaps this is what motivates adults to place such a high priority on appearance, even when they realize there is a health issue they should tend to that’s more important.

Another reason may be because the symptoms of gum disease and other problems in the mouth are often easy to ignore. For instance, like body odor, our sense of smell becomes accustomed to particular scents. Therefore, it’s easy to be unaware of our own bad breath.

And, gum disease may be running rampant without obvious symptoms or signs that cause alarm. For example, some people assume that seeing blood in the sink when brushing is a sign they’re doing a good job. They don’t associate it as a symptom of gum disease.

Before you invest in a tooth whitening kit at the drug store, ask your dentist to evaluate your oral health. If your gums are healthy, he or she will give you a thumbs up. Plus, healthy gums will be less sensitive during the whitening process.

If, however, your gums have indications of gum disease, whitening your teeth is doing your smile no favors. Save your money and put it towards a healthy smile first. Your teeth and gums (along with fresh breath) will send a message of a health-conscious individual. That’s always impressive!

If you’re experiencing any of the signs of gum disease mentioned above, please call for an examination. Gum disease only worsens without treatment. It is also the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

Call 828-274-9440.

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