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Is a dazzling smile always a good thing?

A nice smile gives a great first impression, and may well reflect good health as well as a bright personality, but I do feel that many people have taken artificial enhancement of their smile to the extreme. By that I mean teeth whitening.

Now if I was unfortunate enough to have ended up with serious discoloration of my teeth that couldn’t be fixed by any amount of cleaning, I’d be the first in line for whitening treatment. But it seems to me that a lot of people who go for whitening have perfectly good-looking, natural teeth in the first place.

Is it just me, or do you feel that some people’s teeth these days are so glow-in-the-dark white that they look abnormal and, dare I say it, unattractive?

Before you consider having your teeth whitened, why not ask some of your trusted friends and family whether they think it will improve your appearance?

Whatever way you look at it, tooth whitening is a big deal as it affects the enamel which is your teeth’s best defense against decay. Even if you place your treatment in good hands, there are risks. Most of the side-effects are temporary but some can be permanent and disastrous.

So if you’ve decided you definitely want whiter teeth, make sure you go about it the right way. You can buy home kits over the counter. Usually they are less powerful than those used by dentists, but you can still cause damage by using them incorrectly or perhaps by buying one that doesn’t meet safety guidelines.

The strongest and most effective treatments are applied by dental professionals. If you’re going to let someone work on your teeth, do make sure that person is a qualified dental professional with a good reputation. There are many other people out there who will happily take your money but do not have the necessary knowledge and skills to do a good job.

Even in the best hands, teeth whitening can have side-effects. Bleaching gels can cause increased sensitivity of the teeth, which may be quite uncomfortable, but normally this soon passes. Irritation or damage to the gums is another common problem.

The perfectly even result that you desire may not be possible if your teeth have stains caused by tetracycline and other medications, fluorosis or internal damage to the tooth itself. Neither will whitening work on fillings and crowns. In these cases the answer is often to replace those teeth with implants. Now that really is unnatural, and again I would argue that unless you have a serious problem you should rely on your original teeth to do the best job.

In the worst cases of bad practice, you can end up with seriously blistered gums and permanently damaged, stained or sensitive teeth.

Think about it carefully and stick with a natural smile if you can.