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How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

Dec 16, 2017 | Teeth Whitening

If you are an avid coffee drinker then you are no stranger to yellow-stained teeth. We have all seen those pictures of ourselves smiling and wishing we could make them whiter. The truth is that even if you do not drink coffee, there are plenty of other substances that can discolor teeth.

Tooth enamel itself can be many different shades and overtime change color or stain. The good news is that with a professional teeth whitening procedure from us, you can acquire the bright and shiny teeth you desire.

Understanding teeth discoloration

To understand teeth whitening, here are some of the factors that contribute to discolored teeth:

  • Genetics—tooth color can run in the family
  • Aging
  • Injury to the teeth
  • Illness
  • Medicines, such as some antibiotics
  • Tobacco use
  • Contact with stain-causing food and drinks over time (such as berries, sauces, coffee, cola, black tea, and red wine)
  • Getting too much fluoride while teeth are developing

The active ingredients in whitening products are carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. When in contact with the teeth, these products remove surface stains and also lighten the color deep into the tooth.

We can complete this task in a dental office where whiteners are much stronger than whitening toothpaste and home-use whiteners. The in-office treatments will typically have more peroxide. While the in-office treatment can change the color of teeth faster than other methods, some people prefer treatments at home than in the office.

Protecting your teeth

To help protect the mouth from the peroxide, the patient’s gum tissues are covered either with a thin sheet of rubber or a protective gel. Sometimes a light or laser is used with the peroxide. We will take an impression of the patient’s teeth to make a mold. This enables the dentist to make plastic gutters that perfectly adapt to the patient’s teeth.

A small amount of carbamide peroxide gel (16 percent) remains in the gutter, which the patient wears daily for 60 to 90 minutes on the teeth. The treatment lasts an average of two weeks but may extend for a longer period to get satisfactory results if the staining is tenacious. Before a teeth whitening treatment, it is necessary to clean the teeth and undergo a comprehensive dental examination to make sure that the patient does not have any defective restorations or cavities.

We will also determine the cause of the tooth discoloration which is crucially important to ensure the success of the treatment. The color change can be superficial, meaning that it is caused by tartar and plaque accumulation on the tooth. These deposits become colored over time due to frequent consumption of tobacco, coffee, tea or red wine.

Other options

If one is not looking to make an in-office trip, patients can always try whitening products available at the drugstore. These kits come in the form of self-adhesive tapes, products to be applied to the toothbrush or in gutters.  The active ingredient is similar to the one used in the dental practice but at a lower concentration.

Sensitivity and irritation are possible side effects. They are more frequent with this type of treatment because the gutters are not custom-made. Whatever method you choose to use to whiten your teeth, remember that newly whitened teeth may stain more easily.

To keep your teeth white as long as possible, avoid tobacco and stain-causing food and drinks for several days after whitening. Keep in mind that teeth usually return to their original shade over time. But if you steer clear of tobacco and large amounts of stain-causing food and drinks, your teeth may stay bright for several years.