According to the American Association of Orthodontists, nearly 90% of patients request tooth whitening. That’s a lot of people who are conscientious about their smile. If you are among those who wonder if your teeth could be brighter, here are six things you should know.
There are a number of reasons that your teeth may have darkened. Some of them you have control over, and some you don’t. What you eat and drink can stain your teeth. Coffee and tea, soda (even light sodas), wine, brightly colored fruits, and vegetables, and obviously, tobacco products can all have a detrimental effect on your teeth color. Stains on the outside of the teeth are not usually difficult to remove, and most people have good results from teeth whitening for these reasons. Age can also darken your teeth, as the enamel layer gets thinner and more of the yellow colored dentin shows through. Medications can have a darkening effect on your teeth as well, especially from antibiotics like tetracycline and doxycycline when the teeth are forming either in the womb or as a baby. Certain antihistamines, antipsychotics, and high blood pressure medications can darken teeth, too. Also, ingesting too much fluoride can discolor your teeth.
Teeth whitening does not work on all teeth, nor correct all types of discoloration. Yellow teeth tend to whiten well, but brown teeth are harder to whiten, and gray tones may not whiten at all. Whitening doesn’t work on caps, fillings, crowns or veneers, either, and is not effective if the discoloration is from trauma or medications.
There are three ways to brighten your smile. In-office whitening is a procedure done by your dentist office and consists of bleaching your teeth after a shield is applied to protect your gums. Most procedures only require a single visit. The second way is by bleaching your teeth at home. This should be done under the advisement of your dental professional, who can guide your choice of products to assure your satisfaction. They typically come in a gel, but can also be strips or swabs that contain bleaching agents (either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide). These will work to bleach the enamel. The most effective at-home treatment is to have bleach trays custom made by your dentist. The easiest but least effective way is by using whitening toothpaste. All kinds of toothpaste help remove surface stains through the abrasive action of the toothpaste components. Look for the ADA Seal for safe whitening toothpaste that have special chemical agents or polishing compounds that provide additional stain removal properties. This form of whitening only works to remove stains, unlike bleaching that changes the color of the enamel.
Not all people are candidates for tooth whitening. People with pre-existing tooth sensitivity, acid erosion, receding or sensitive gums, sensitivity to hydrogen peroxide, defective dental restorations, or tooth decay should not have their teeth whitened. Also, the color of your teeth may be a deciding factor, as mentioned above.
The risks involved are small and usually temporary. Hypersensitivity is caused by open dentinal tubules and most often occurs during the early stages of the bleaching process. Hydrogen peroxide is an irritant and at concentrations of 10% or higher is potentially corrosive to mucous membranes or skin. This can cause a burning sensation and minor tissue damage that heals quickly once the treatment is concluded.
Eventually, the teeth will return to their pre-treatment color. Therefore, whitening should be regarded as a temporary (although long-lasting, up to 5 years) cosmetic treatment, that will make your smile brighter for a time. However, periodic touch-ups can help it last even longer.
Your dental professional can answer any questions and give advice on the best whitening option for you.
Through the end of the year, 32 Pearls is offering in-office whitening at a special cost of $425 (reg $500) which also includes custom trays for at-home touch ups. Contact our office (253) 475-2160 to schedule a consult to see if you’re a candidate for whitening.