Brushing and flossing are daily ways to keep your teeth bright, white and in a healthy condition. Still, if you might feel your smile is lacking some radiance or is more yellow than it used to be, you’re not alone. When the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry questioned people what they ‘d most like to boost about their smile, the most common response was whiter teeth. The American Association of Orthodontists also found that nearly 90% of patients requested tooth whitening.
Thinking about teeth whitening? Get the facts first. According to www.shallowfordfamilydental.com, here are five of the most commonly asked questions about the process.
Why Did My Teeth Change Color?
Gradually, your teeth can go from white to not-so-bright for a lot of reasons:
Food and Drink
Coffee, tea and red wine are some major staining culprits. What do they have in common? Strong color pigments called chromogens that attach to the white, outer component of your tooth (enamel).
Two chemicals found in tobacco create uncooperative stains: Tar and nicotine. Tar is naturally dark. Nicotine is colorless until it’s mixed with oxygen. Then, it develops into a yellowish or golden-tinged, surface-staining substance.
Below the hard, white outer shell of your teeth (enamel) is a softer area called dentin. In time, the outer enamel layer gets thin with brushing and more of the yellow-colored dentin shows through.
If you’ve been hit in the mouth, your tooth may alter color because it reacts to an injury by providing more dentin, which is a darker layer under the enamel.
Tooth darkening can be a negative reaction of certain antihistamines, antipsychotics and high blood pressure medications. Children who are exposed to antibiotics like tetracycline and doxycycline when their teeth are developing (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 dim teeth.
How Does Teeth Whitening Work?
Teeth whitening is a straightforward 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 more vibrant.
Does Whitening Work on All Teeth?
No, 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 most likely bleach well, brown teeth may not respond as well and teeth with gray shades may not bleach at all. Whitening will not work on caps, veneers, crowns or fillings. It also won’t be moving if your tooth discoloration is brought on by medications or a tooth injury.
What Are My Whitening Options?
Consult with your dentist before beginning. If you are a candidate, there are four ways to put the shine back in your smile:
Stain Removal Toothpastes
All toothpastes help eliminate surface stain through the movement of mild abrasives that scrub the teeth. Look out for whitening toothpastes that have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance for stain removal (it will tell you on the package). These toothpastes have additional polishing agents that are healthy for your teeth and provide stain removal success. Unlike bleaches, these forms of ADA-Accepted products do not change the color of teeth because they can only remove stains on the surface.
This procedure is called chairside bleaching and commonly requires only one office visit. The dentist will apply either a protective gel to your gums or a rubber guard to protect your gums. Bleach is then applied to the teeth.
At-Home Bleaching from Your Dentist
Your dentist may provide you with a customized tray for at-home whitening. In this case, the dentist will give you instructions on how to place the bleaching solution in the tray and for what length of time. This may be a preferred option if you feel more comfortable whitening in your own home at a slower pace, but still with the advice of a dentist. Out-of-office bleaching can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
Over-the-Counter Bleaching Products
You may see different options online or in your local grocery store, such as toothpastes or strips that whiten by bleaching your teeth. The concentration of the bleaching agent in these products is less than what your dentist would use in the office. If you are thinking about using an otc bleaching kit, discuss options with your dentist and search for one with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. That denotes it has been tested to be harmless and effective for teeth whitening. Get a list of all ADA-Accepted at-home bleaching products.
Are There Any Side Effects from Teeth Whitening?
Some people who use teeth whiteners may experience tooth tenderness. That happens when the peroxide in the whitener penetrates the enamel to the soft layer of dentin and disturbs the nerve of your tooth. In most cases the sensitivity is temporary. You can delay treatment, then try again.
Overuse of whiteners can also damage the tooth enamel or gums, so be sure to follow directions and speak to your dentist.