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:
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.
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.
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.
Teeth Whitening Options
There are 3 basic options here:
- 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.
- 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.
- Whitening toothpastes are readily available and are another at-home option. 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.
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.
Possible Side Effects
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.
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.