At Kirkland Family Dentistry our patients frequently ask about teeth whitening. Indeed, according to a survey by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, “When respondents were asked, ‘What would you like to improve most about your smile?’ The most common response was: Whiter & brighter teeth.”
Your smile creates an immediate impression on people you meet. If you are considering teeth whitening, here are 5 facts you should know.
1. How Teeth Become Discolored
There are several different reasons that your teeth may have changed color. Commonly, the consumption of certain foods and beverages will change the color of your teeth. Drinking red wine, coffee or tea will stain your teeth. These beverages have pigments that will attach to your tooth enamel. Tar and nicotine found in tobacco products will produce brown and yellow stains, respectfully.
Time also plays a factor. As we age, the outer enamel of our teeth tends to thin, and the underlying yellowish dentin will tend to show through more.
Certain medications may also cause your teeth to become discolored, including some antihistamines, antibiotics, high blood pressure medication, or chemotherapy.
2. How Teeth Whitening Works
Teeth whitening is a bleaching process achieved with either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. An oxidation reaction takes place that breaks down the staining agents.
3. Teeth Whitening Options
Professional teeth whitening at your dentist’s office is the fastest and safest way to whiten your teeth. Under the supervision of your dentist, a higher concentration of whitening agents is used. Your gums are protected from exposure to these agents as they otherwise could be damaged by the process. Additionally, a special light or laser may be used to enhance the treatment. This typically takes less than 90 minutes and can produce whitening of your teeth up to 10 shades.
At Kirkland Family Dentistry, we use a special, gentle product which lightens your teeth multiple shades in one short visit. Our professional teeth whitening, and bleaching services remove years’ worth of staining in a single session. There are also at-home options to consider. These include lower concentrations of the bleaching agents typically applied in trays or strips that stick to your teeth. These products work but are much less effective than the treatments offered at your dentist’s office.
Teeth Whitening Strips
Whitening strips are a less expensive alternative to teeth whitening that you can use at home. They consist of a thin strip of material coated with a hydrogen peroxide-based gel. Best results are achieved by wearing the strips 30 minutes at a time, twice a week, for 14 days.
If you have imperfectly situated teeth, you may come into a problem with whitening strips. Since they were designed for people with a perfectly straight smile, any overlapping or turned teeth may end up with odd spots that weren’t treated. Or, you could have problems getting the strips to seal correctly.
Teeth Whitening Trays
Whitening trays are a more costly treatment for whitening your teeth, but can be more effective than whitening strips or toothpastes. You fill the tray with the whitening gel and wear the tray for anywhere from 30 minutes a day to overnight, for several weeks.
Over-the-counter whitening tray kits often have trays that don’t fit your teeth well and are uncomfortable to wear. If your dentist offers this option, they can custom create whitening trays to fit your teeth – allowing you to use less gel and have a more comfortable fit.
Teeth Whitening Toothpastes and Rinses
Whitening toothpastes are readily available. They contain mild abrasives that can remove surface stains. These products differ from the bleaches in that they don’t change the color of your teeth. They only help remove stains on the surface of your teeth.
The most inexpensive mode of whitening teeth, whitening toothpastes and rinses are easy to use – since you simply switch out the toothpaste for your normal toothpaste. Toothpastes and rinses, however, take longer to have an effect and only whiten your teeth by one or two shades. The results also don’t last as long as some other teeth whitening methods.
4. Teeth Whitening Doesn’t Work on All Teeth
Typically, teeth that are yellow will bleach well, brown colors much less so, and gray or purple tones may not respond at all. There may also be a lack of response to whitening agents if your discoloration is a product of medications or a tooth injury.
Also, if you have crowns, fillings, caps or veneers, they will not react to whitening.
5. Possible Side-effects of Teeth Whitening
The most common side-effect of the use of whitening products is tooth sensitivity. This happens when the whitening agent penetrates the enamel and irritates the nerve of the tooth. The effect is short-term, and you can try the application again once the effect wears off.
Remember to follow label directions or consult with your dentist on the use of at-home products, as overuse can damage your gums or tooth enamel.
Talk to Your Dentist About Whitening Your Teeth
We always suggest talking to your dentist before starting the teeth whitening process. Your dentist will be able to advise you if the process is worthwhile given the specific condition (and coloration) of your teeth.
If you have any questions or need further information, please contact us at (425) 822-0435.