Teeth Whitening

Whitening procedures have effectively restored the smile of people with stained, dull, or discolored teeth. More and more people today are choosing tooth-whitening procedures to reverse the effects of aging and abuse from food and tobacco stains.

Causes of Tooth Discoloration

  • Natural Wear – The darker tissue of your teeth, the dentin, can become exposed as the outer layer of enamel is worn away by the effects of aging or things like caffeine and tobacco.

  • Foods and Drinks – Food particles are naturally attracted to a tooth’s enamel by a certain protein. Products like coffee and tea, berries and soy sauce are notorious for staining teeth. Over time, teeth actually become more absorbent and vulnerable to staining from food and other substances.

  • Trauma and Medications – Another type of stain—caused by traumatic injuries, medications, and fluorosis—actually begins inside the tooth; brushing and flossing don’t help.

Types of Teeth Whitening

Bleaching and non-bleaching products are the two basic kinds of whitening products available today. Non-bleaching products normally use abrasives or chemicals and only remove surface stains on teeth. Bleaching products work with a chemical called peroxide and can brighten your teeth by several shades.

Another whitening process employs the use of a special gel that is placed inside a flexible device you wear around your teeth for a certain period of time. After you remove the device, you must use a second bleaching agent, followed by a special light to activate the chemical action. Mildly stained teeth usually only require one session of bleaching.

Over the Counter Whitening Products

Some commercially available “whitening toothpaste” can be somewhat effective at removing stains and making teeth a few shades brighter. However, many of these products have abrasive substances that can actually wear away your tooth’s enamel.

Whitening agents actually change the color of your teeth, but only are effective on certain types of stains. For example, bleaching agents have a difficult time removing brownish or grayish stains. These products also are not as effective on pitted or badly discolored teeth, or on restorations such as crowns, bridges, bonding and tooth-colored fillings (porcelain veneers or dental bonding may be more appropriate in this case).

Professional Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening done in a professional dental setting is a safe, effective way to brighten your smile. It’s also perhaps the most economical cosmetic dental procedure. Depending on the whitening method you choose, results can be dramatic: an in-office whitening, for example, can lighten teeth three to eight shades in a single hour, and can last as long as five years!

Professionally supervised whitening will work faster, and protect sensitive gums and tooth-root surfaces better, than over-the-counter whitening products. Having an oral exam before you begin any whitening process is an important first step to make sure your tooth discoloration is not the result of a dental condition in need of treatment. Also, please be aware that it can be risky to have whitening solutions applied to your teeth by untrained personnel in shopping malls. If you have any questions about which whitening method would be best for you, talk to us first.

Professional Whitening Methods

Professional whitening makes use of high-concentration bleaching gels that are not available over the counter.

  • In-Office Whitening — This technique offers the fastest results with the most powerful whitening solutions available. First, your gums and tooth-root surfaces will be covered with a protective barrier to ensure your safety. A thin plastic device known as a retractor will hold your lips and cheeks away from your teeth as a professional-strength hydrogen peroxide gel is applied. The gel will be left on for about an hour. When it is removed, the results will be obvious immediately.

  • Take-Home Whitening — This is another effective way to whiten your teeth, though you will play a greater role in ensuring the best possible results and several weeks may be needed to achieve your desired level of whiteness. First, a mold of your teeth will be taken and then two thin, flexible plastic mouth trays will be custom-made for you — one for the top teeth and one for the bottom. You will fill the trays with whitening gel and then position the trays over your teeth. The trays are left in usually for about an hour at a time.

Caring for Your Whitened Smile

There are lots of things you can do to make sure your whitening results last as long as possible, and this will vary from person to person (six months to two years or even longer). First of all, please maintain your usual, conscientious routine of brushing and flossing every day, and keep up with your regular schedule of professional cleanings at the dental office. Avoid foods and beverages that stain, including red wine, tea, and coffee. If you smoke, use your newly whitened teeth as an impetus to quit — a good idea in any event! A minor touch-up every so often, either at home or at the dental office, can keep your smile bright and beautiful for years.