Although teeth generally start out as having a pearly white and healthy look, tooth enamel can be many different shades. Moreover, it can change color or become stained, ultimately changing the way you look and feel. While there are options for whitening your teeth for a new and fresh look, not all treatments are as safe or effective as some.
Having whiter teeth is such an important concern, that the booming teeth whitening industry has enabled dazzling smiles within everyone’s reach. From over-the-counter products to professional treatments in a dentist’s office, there are many options for brightening stained or darkened teeth.
Teeth whitening is ideal for people who have healthy, unrestored teeth and gums. Individuals with yellow-toned teeth respond best.
Tooth whitening is not a recommended cosmetic choice for all. If gums have pulled away from the teeth, whitening may irritate these areas. Any tooth decay or gum disease needs to be treated before whitening. Also, tooth whitening cannot change the color of fillings, crowns, and some stains.
Over time, teeth can get discolored due to a number of reasons:
Genetics – tooth color can run in the family
Food and Drink – coffee, tea, red wine, some sauces, berries, etc. with intense color pigments called chromogens attach to the tooth enamel.
Tobacco – tar and nicotine create stubborn stains.
Age – over time, the outer enamel thins out and the yellowish dentin layer shows.
Trauma – an injured tooth may change color because it lays down darker dentin.
Medications – certain antihistamines, antibiotics, antipsychotics, and high blood pressure medications, as well as chemotherapy and head/neck radiation can darken teeth.
Fluoride – excess amounts while teeth are developing will also discolor teeth.
Over-the-counter and professional whitening products contain carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide that helps lighten the color deep in the tooth. They get below the surface, break up stains into smaller pieces and lighten tooth enamel.
Teeth “whitening” can be achieved in two ways. Bleaching the tooth so it actually changes the natural color. Bleaching products remove deep (intrinsic) and surface (extrinsic) stains. Non-bleaching whitening products contain agents that work by physical or chemical action to help remove surface stains only.
The tooth whitening business falls into four categories:
Teeth-whitening options range from gentle surface whiteners to stronger ones that remove deeper stains:
Whitening strips are very thin, virtually invisible strips that are coated with a peroxide-based whitening gel. They are applied to the teeth and adhere to them to work their results. They need to be used over a period of time. Initial results are seen within a few days and last for about four months.
While whitening strips are relatively safe, just like any OTC treatments, when used unsupervised at home without the knowledge of the dentist, there is an increased chance of serious repercussions. If your teeth become very sensitive or you get sores in your mouth, stop using in-home products and call your dentist.
The ADA recommends that whitening treatments or products should only be used after consultation with a dentist, especially for patients with fillings, crowns, and extremely dark stains. A thorough oral examination, to check and treat for tooth and gum health is essential to determine if bleaching is appropriate.
The dentist and patient together can determine the most appropriate treatment. The dentist will advise the patient and supervise the use of bleaching agents and advise on safety precautions.
If you think you are a candidate for teeth whitening or want more information, contact Dr. Ernie Soto at (954) 368-6264.