Teeth whitening is a simple, comfortable and safe process where a whitening product containing either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide is used to obtain a whiter brighter smile.
These whitening agents oxygenate the tooth surface to bleaches out stains. Whiter teeth are normally associated with a younger, more attractive look.
What Causes My Teeth to Change Color?
Over time, your teeth pick up stains or may discolor for the following reasons
- Food & Beverages
Coffee, tea, colas, red wine, and foods with dyes or dark colors are the most common culprits. These items have dark colored pigments called chromogens that attach to the white outer part of your tooth and eventually work its way into the tooth structure.
The outer layer of your tooth called the enamel thins or becomes translucent over time and more of the inner yellow layer called the dentin may become visible. Whitening can help to improve the opacity of the enamel if done conservatively.
Following an injury to your tooth (such a being hit in the mouth), the tooth may darken as the tooth responds by laying down reparative dentin which is darker in color.
Several medications can darken teeth such as certain antihistamines, antipsychotics, high blood pressure medications, or chemotherapeutic agents. Also if either a pregnant woman or their child took tetracycline antibiotics while the teeth were forming, their child’s teeth could have gray or dark brown bands that go all the way through the tooth.
- Tobbaco Use
Tar and Nicotine are chemicals found in tobacco that stains teeth. Tar is dark in color while nicotine starts out colorless until it mixes with oxygen to form a yellowish surface stain.
Does Whitening Work Well on All Teeth?
Talk to Dr. Keith Tang to identify the reasons your teeth have darkened. Then discuss with him whether whitening may be effective and the recommended protocol to use for the whitening process. For example, teeth that are yellow or orange due to food/beverages or age tend to whiten fairly well, but gray or brown colors may take several months to see a significant whitening effect. Also, teeth whitening may not be effective if teeth have discolored because of trauma or medication reasons and if the teeth have caps, veneers, crowns or fillings.
What Are My Options for Whitening?
- Whitening Toothpastes
All whitening toothpaste help removes surface stains by the addition of a mild abrasive that cleans your teeth. Look for the ADA seal of approval on whitening toothpaste to see if it has other special chemicals or polishing agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness.
- Professional Custom Tray Bleaching
Impressions are taken of your teeth to make soft custom trays. The whitening gel, usually carbamide peroxide, is worn in the tray for 30 minutes to 8 hours depending on the percentage recommended by Dr. Tang. The shorter times are for the higher percentage whitening gels, but the lower percentage gels worn for a longer time usually work more predictably and have less sensitivity. The typical whitening treatment is completed in 12-14 days.
- In-Office Bleaching
This method is recommended for patients who do not want to wear the custom trays and want a more instant result. During a single 90 minute visit, Dr. Tang and staff apply block out materials to protect your gums, place the whitening chemicals on your teeth, and use a laser to enhance the whitening action while you watch a movie.
- Whitening Strips
While some people have found this modality to be effective, the degree of whitening is determined by the contact time with your teeth and the percentage of the whitening agent. The manufacturer’s directions recommend wearing these strips on your teeth for up to 30 minutes, twice per day. The problem is that the maximum contact time is 1 hour (if you do it twice per day) and you will swallow most of the whitening product as these strips become gummy when your saliva mixes with it. Therefore you must use these strips for several weeks to months to get a comparable contact time to the professional methods listed above.
What are the Side Effects of Teeth Whitening?
The most common side effect is tooth sensitivity (especially cold items) as the chemicals open up the microtubules in your teeth and irritates the nerve. In most cases, the sensitivity is transient and returns back to pre-treatment levels within one week. For people who already have sensitive teeth, Dr. Tang recommends using a sensitive toothpaste called Sensodyne and a high fluoride gel to wear in the trays after whitening.
Overuse of whitening products can cause damage to tooth enamel, dentin, nerves, or gums in your mouth so be careful to follow Dr. Tang’s instructions and call us if you experience any problems doing the whitening process.