One of the most popular and easiest way to improve your smile is by whitening or bleaching your teeth. Over time teeth accumulate stains from coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, berries, tobacco or any strongly colored food or drink. At first the stains appear on the surface of your enamel which can be controlled by good brushing habits and regular professional cleaning appointments with your hygienist. However, eventually the stains penetrate the enamel and darken the teeth. Depending on your enamel and your dietary habits this may take only a few years to notice that your teeth aren’t as bright as they used to be. At this point the only way to whitening your teeth are by bleaching them.
Does Whitening Toothpaste Work?
There are many toothpastes advertised to whiten your teeth. They are typically very abrasive and perform very well at removing surface stains like from coffee and tea, or tobacco. However, a word of caution here, daily use of a strongly abrasive toothpaste will lead to excessive wear on your enamel. Usually you don’t need to use this strong of an abrasive every single day. For most patients they can control any surface stains by using a whitening toothpaste just once or twice a week. Your enamel does not regrow, treat it well and protect it.
We offer in-office whitening treatments to jump start your whitening process. Your hygienist can provide information about the whitening process. Professional whitening products are stronger and work faster than their over the counter counterparts. Usually a 1-2 hour in-office whitening appointment will jump start your process and results. Then we can provide take home professional strength products with custom made trays for you to use for several weeks until you achieve the results you are looking for.
Over the Counter Whitening Products
Over the counter retail whitening products are available from trays to strips to pens. Whitening is a bleaching process where the bleach oxidizes the colored molecules or chromagens and this is a dose-time related chemical event. So while over the counter products do work, they are usually at lower concentration than professional strength products, so they take longer use for you to get the result you are looking for. It’s just a dose-time chemical reaction. If you are patient and persistent, you can get good results with these products too.
The major risk that comes with tooth whitening is tooth sensitivity. This is usually thermal sensitivity, as your teeth may become more sensitive to hot and cold. Fortunately this is temporary and goes away in a matter of a few days or weeks after you whiten you teeth. If you teeth become sensitive during the whitening process, it would be a good idea to stop for a few days until the sensitivity goes away and then start again. The other major issue with teeth whitening is people not getting the results they are hoping for. Depending on the cause of your discoloration, some staining is easier to bleach and gets better result than others. Some advertisements promise X number of shade improvement and use a scale that has a multitude of degrees of shades. In dentistry we use a shade standard Vita scale that has 16 shades. You can usually expect about a 2 shade improvement from tooth whitening. It is important to have appropriate expectations for your results. Your hygienist and dentist can discuss this with you.
Tooth whitening does have limitations. In addition to realistic limited whitening results, teeth whitening does not whiten any porcelain or composite restorations. So if you have tooth colored fillings, porcelain crowns, bridges or veneers in your smile, they will not change color. You can still whiten your teeth, but then your restorations may not match color to your whitened teeth. These topics are best discussed with your dental professional prior to starting the whitening process.
Please ask us about teeth whitening. We want to make sure that we help you achieve the beautiful smile that you desire and deserve.