A white smile has been associated with a range of positive social perceptions such as social competence, intellectual ability, psychological adjustment and relationship status,[i] as well as being perceived as more attractive.[ii] Therefore, the colour (in addition to the alignment and shape) of someone’s teeth is an important factor in how others judge them.
Much more important than this is the impact that a smile can have on an individual’s confidence and self-esteem. A survey of teenagers found that tooth colour was the cause for smile dissatisfaction among 33% of participants, second only to tooth alignment (34%).[iii] Another study found tooth colour to be the leading cause for concern among adults, cited as the top issue by 28% of both females and males.[iv]
It is no wonder, then, that so many people are looking to improve their smile aesthetics in some way, particularly through teeth whitening.
A 2019 study[v] found that 40% of participants were interested in cosmetic procedures, including both surgical and non-surgical options, motivated primarily by improving their confidence. Approximately 43% of these people expressed interest in cosmetic dentistry, making this the most commonly sought treatment. Putting the spotlight on teeth whitening, it is estimated that around 41% of Brits are interested in this procedure.[vi] In 2021, there were 576,000 online searches for teeth whitening in the UK – beaten only by 960,000 searches in the USA.[vii]
Aside from the positive impact on patients’ self-confidence, an increasing demand for teeth whitening affords an opportunity for dental providers to benefit from too. Not only is the process fairly straight forward and cost-effective for a fully trained dental professional, but it is an ideal gateway procedure for patients who may become interested in further treatment. For instance, to perfect their smiles, patients with whiter teeth may go on to enquire about composite edge bonding, anterior alignment or even veneers for teeth that could look even better.
In addition, patients who undergo whitening will be keen to look after their investment and maintain the results for as long as possible. This provides an opportunity for patient education, encouraging their compliance with oral hygiene advice and enhancing their dental health along the way.
The dark side of demand
Along with this increased interest in teeth whitening comes a growing number of ‘hacks’ and ‘home remedies’ that many patients can access through online platforms such as social media. Unfortunately, some of these could actually do more harm than good, so it is essential that patients understand the importance of consulting a dental professional.
One example of ‘advice’ that has circulated in recent times is to swill the mouth with hydrogen peroxide, or to create a paste by adding baking soda and brushing the teeth with it. Though both ingredients are very successfully used in professional products, homemade solutions lack the same level of ingredient measurement and control of store-bought products. As a result, domestic solutions can cause irritation and burns to the soft tissue of the mouth – at best they may not be effective in removing stains, at worst they could cause significant damage.
Other ideas that have been widely shared on social platforms include using lemon or other citrus fruits to reduce staining (risking acid erosion of the enamel); coconut oil pulling (not effective at whitening the teeth); and purple shampoo (not safe to be consumed!).
You may decide to build your own social media presence in order to spread safe and correct information, or answer individual’s questions. You could also communicate with patients via emails, in letters or during appointments, asking if they have seen the so-called ‘hacks’ and gently highlighting the dangers of following them. In any case it’s vital that you are aware what information or trends your patients might be exposed to so you can look out for signs and guide them towards safer alternatives.
Professional products remain king
For any patients who are interested in whitening their teeth, professional treatment is by far and away the best option for safe, predictable and effective results. There is an array of science-backed products on the market for the dental team to choose from, ensuring the most appropriate treatment for every patient.
Of course, maintaining a whiter, brighter smile over time is just as important for many individuals who want to make the most of their new-found confidence. Whitening toothpastes can be a useful tool between professional appointments, helping to prevent new staining and even achieving lighter shades for long-term patient satisfaction.
The Billion Dollar Smile Purple Whitening Polish and Toothpaste that will be launching this summer is an excellent option. Utilising natural ingredients that have been thoroughly tried and tested, the toothpaste will contain hydroxyapatite to repair the enamel, 1450 ppm of fluoride to promote remineralisation, volcanic minerals to achieve gentle yet effective stain removal, as well as purple pigments for an immediate brightening effect. Help patients achieve up to 4 shades lighter with continuous use of the Billion Dollar Smile products – a truly natural solution you can trust to do no damage.
The lure of a white smile is strong for many people, but it is essential they choose safe and predictable ways to achieve their desired look. With on-going advice and support, you can help them boost their self-confidence and improve their oral health at the same time.
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[i] Kershaw, S., Newton, J. & Williams, D. The influence of tooth colour on the perceptions of personal characteristics among female dental patients: comparisons of unmodified, decayed and ‘whitened’ teeth. Br Dent J 204, E9 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/bdj.2008.134
[ii] Hendrie CA, Brewer G. Evidence to suggest that teeth act as human ornament displays signalling mate quality. PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e42178. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042178. Epub 2012 Jul 31. PMID: 22860076; PMCID: PMC3409146.
[iii] Ellakany, P., Fouda, S.M., Alghamdi, M. et al. Factors affecting dental self-confidence and satisfaction with dental appearance among adolescents in Saudi Arabia: a cross sectional study. BMC Oral Health 21, 149 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12903-021-01509-z
[iv] Kershaw, S., Newton, J. & Williams, D. The influence of tooth colour on the perceptions of personal characteristics among female dental patients: comparisons of unmodified, decayed and ‘whitened’ teeth. Br Dent J 204, E9 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/bdj.2008.134
[v] Realself. UK Aesthetics Interest Survey. 2018. https://insightscenter.realself.com/the-results-are-in-the-u-k-aesthetics-interest-survey/ [Accessed March 2023]
[vi] Dentaly.org. Interesting facts about teeth and UK dental statistics. https://www.dentaly.org/en/dental-facts-statistics/ [Accessed March 2023]
[vii] ExpressDentist and Ahref. The Dentist. UK public among the most interested teeth whitening. May 2021. https://www.the-dentist.co.uk/content/news/uk-public-among-the-most-interested-teeth-whitening/ [Accessed March 2023]