Do you want your teeth to be whiter?
Teeth whitening is a simple process. Whitening products contain one of two tooth bleaches (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide). These bleaches break stains into smaller pieces, which makes the color less concentrated and your teeth brighter. Whitening will not work on all teeth, which is why it’s important to talk to your dentist before deciding to whiten your teeth, as whiteners may not correct all types of discoloration. For example, yellow teeth will probably bleach well, brown teeth may not respond as well and teeth with gray tones may not bleach at all. Whitening will not work on caps, veneers, crowns, or fillings. It also won’t be effective if your tooth discoloration is caused by medications or a tooth injury.
Reasons for Tooth Discoloration
- Food & Drink: Coffee, tea and red wine are some major staining culprits. What do they have in common? Intense color pigments called chromogens that attach to the white, outer part of your tooth
- Tobacco Use: Two chemicals found in tobacco create stubborn stains: Tar and nicotine. Tar is naturally dark. Nicotine is colorless until it’s mixed with oxygen. Then, it turns into a yellowish, surface-staining substance.
- Age: Below the hard, white outer shell of your teeth (enamel) is a softer area called dentin. Over time, the outer enamel layer gets thinner with brushing and more of the yellowish dentin shows through.
- Trauma: If you’ve been hit in the mouth, your tooth may change color because it reacts to an injury by laying down more dentin, which is a darker layer under the enamel.
- Medications: Tooth darkening can be a side effect of certain antihistamines, anti-psychotics and high blood pressure medications. Young children who are exposed to antibiotics like tetracycline and doxycycline when their teeth are forming (either in the womb or as a baby) may have discoloration of their adult teeth later in life. Chemotherapy and head and neck radiation can also darken teeth.
What are my Whitening Options?
- Whitening Toothpastes: All toothpastes help remove surface stain through the action of mild abrasives that scrub the teeth. Look for the ADA seal for safe whitening toothpastes that have special chemical or polishing agents to provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, these types of ADA Accepted products do not change the color of teeth because they can only remove stains on the surface.
- In-Office Bleaching: This procedure is called chairside bleaching and usually requires only one office visit. The dentist will apply either a protective gel to your gums or a rubber shield to protect your gums. Bleach is then applied to the teeth.
- At-Home Bleaching: Peroxide-containing whiteners actually bleach the tooth enamel. They typically come in a gel and are placed in a tray that fits on your teeth. You may also use a whitening strip that sticks to your teeth. The concentration of the bleaching agent is lower than what your dentist would use in the office.