Teeth Whitening 101

| January 14, 2016

Whiter SmileMany of us would be happier if our smiles were brighter than they currently are. And while brushing, flossing and regular dental visits do a nice job of keeping our teeth clean, keeping them sparkling can take some extra effort.

The foods we eat, what we drink, and even just aging in general can dull the shine of our teeth over time. But thankfully, modern dentistry offers several ways to restore our teeth to a vibrant white.

If you are self-conscious about the shade of your smile, teeth whitening may be your best option. As with any dental procedure, it is helpful to know the basics before making a decision.

How Teeth Tarnish

Your enamel, or the visible part of your teeth, is naturally porous and can pick up stains. Its thickness and smoothness is determined by your genes. For example, rough enamel affects the way light reflects off your teeth, and thus, the color.

Throughout the day, a thin coating forms on your enamel and holds stains, which can also get caught in the enamel’s pores. Some of the most frequent sources of staining include:

  • Dark drinks like coffee, tea, red wine and cola
  • Tobacco use
  • Spicy foods
  • Injuries to the tooth
  • Aging
  • Overexposure to fluoride as a child

How Teeth Whitening Works

Most teeth whitening systems involve a bleaching gel that is applied either by your dentist or by yourself at home. These gels are mostly hydrogen peroxide-based.

In the office, your dentist cleans away the film on your teeth, puts a protective barrier on your gums, then applies the whitener. The chemicals then work their way into the enamel, bleaching stains.

The whitener is usually applied and removed several times, taking about 40 minutes total. When completed, your teeth can be four to six shades whiter than before!

Take-Home Whitening

To whiten teeth yourself, your dentist will first take impressions of your mouth, and make trays that custom fit your teeth. After putting the gel in the trays, you will wear them about two hours a day or while sleeping. Your dentist will recommend a whitening schedule for you based on your whitening goals.

Benefits of Professional Whitening

While there are many over-the-counter products out there, whitening with the help of your dentist is the safest and most effective way to go about it.

Since drugstore products are one-size-fits-all, you run the risk of whitening your teeth unevenly. Whether in the office or at home, your dentist will shape a treatment that fits your exact needs.

Over-the-counter systems can also cause tooth or gum sensitivity or even damage the tooth’s root. Your dentist will be able to look at your mouth and see if this could be a problem before the procedure.

How Long Does it Last?

Even the best whitening systems fade over time. Your eating and drinking habits also affect the success of your whitening. Patients who avoid foods and drinks that stain can go as long as a year before another treatment is needed. But without a change in diet, your results can start to fade in as little as a month.

We offer both in-office and at-home whitening options, and we are more than happy to help you determine the method that best fits your needs. A whitening specialist will help identify your goals and get you on your way to your brightest smile. To learn more about your options, contact us online.