Everyday tasks to maintain a bright, white, and healthy smile include brushing, flossing, and rinsing. However, if you feel that your smile could sparkle a little bit more or has suffered some discoloration over the years, you are definitely not alone. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry issued a survey asking consumers what they wished they could improve about their smile, and the most popular response was whiter teeth. It has been determined that almost 90 percent of dental patients have requested tooth whitening services.
If tooth whitening is something that you are considering, you need to be familiar with the facts first. Here are a handful of the most frequently asked questions regarding the tooth whitening process.
Over time, it is not uncommon for your teeth to change from a bright white color to an off-white color or possibly a yellow or brownish color. There are a number of reasons for this, including the following.
Tea, coffee, and red wind are all beverages that can stain your teeth. They all have one thing in common: chromogens, which are intense color pigments that latch onto the enamel of your teeth (the outer layer of your teeth).
There are two specific chemicals that are found in tobacco that can cause stubborn stains: nicotine and tar. Nicotine is colorless—at least until it is mixed with oxygen at which time is turns into a yellowish substance that causes surface stains. Tar is just naturally dark.
Below the enamel, which is the hard and white outer shell of your teeth, is a much softer area that is referred to as dentin. Over time, due to regular brushing and other habits, the enamel becomes thinner and more of the yellowish dentin will begin to appear.
If you have been struck in the mouth as a result of a trauma, your tooth may change in color due to it reacting to the injury by laying more dentin down—and remember, the dentin is the darker layer of your tooth found beneath the whiter layer known as enamel.
There are some medications, such as high blood pressure medications, antihistamines, and antipsychotics, that can result in the yellowing of your teeth; it is a side effect of the medication. Young children who have to take certain antibiotics like doxycycline or tetracycline during the development of their teeth (while in the womb or when they’re a baby) may suffer from discoloration of their adult teeth later on in life. Teeth can also suffer discoloration as a result of head and neck radiation and chemotherapy.
Though it may seem like it would be complex, teeth whitening is actually a pretty simple process overall. The whitening products that are used contain a tooth bleach. There are two kinds that are used: carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. The tooth bleach breaks the stains on your teeth into smaller pieces, allowing the color to become less concentrated so that your teeth appear brighter in color.
Unfortunately, no, and this is exactly the reason that you need to sit down and talk to your dentist prior to making the decision to go through with the teeth whitening process since whiteners may be unable to correct all forms of discoloration. For instance, yellow teeth likely will not bleach well; brown teeth will be unlikely to respond as well; and gray-toned teeth will be unlikely to bleach at all. Whitening will not work on fillings, crowns, caps, or veneers. In addition, whitening will not be effective if the discoloration of your teeth has been caused by a tooth injury or medications.
Before moving forward, your best bet is to speak to your dentist. If you end up being a candidate for whitening, then you have three options at your disposal to get that shine and sparkle back in your smile.
Surface stains can be removed with any kind of toothpaste via the action of using a mild abrasive against the teeth. When shopping for whitening toothpastes, look for the ADA seal as these will be safe and have special polishing or chemical agents that offer additional stain removal effectiveness. Keep in mind that these ADA-approved products won’t alter the color of your teeth since they simply remove the surface stains.
Also known as chairside bleaching, in-office bleaching generally requires a single visit to the dental office. The dentist will apply a rubber shield or a protective gel to your gums to protect them, then bleach will be applied to your teeth.
Whiteners that contain peroxide can bleach the enamel. Generally, these whiteners come in a gel and are then placed in a tray that will fit on your teeth. You also have the option of using a whitening strip, which sticks to your teeth. Now, when compared to the amount of bleaching agent that would be used in the dental office, the concentration is lower. If you are considering using an over-the-counter bleaching product, talk to your dentist about the options available and make sure to use one with the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which means that it has been fully tested to be safe and effective for whitening teeth.
Some patients experience tooth sensitivity, which occurs due to the peroxide in the whitening agent seeping through the enamel to the dentin and irritating the tooth’s nerve. However, in most cases, this sensitivity that is experienced is only temporary. Treatment can always be delayed, and you can give it a try again at a later date.
If whiteners are overused, the tooth enamel and/or gums can be damaged, so make sure that you follow the given instructions and speak to your dentist beforehand. For more information, give us a call at Fountain of Youth Dental.