Teeth whitening can brighten your smile several shades, erasing years of stains and yellowing in as little as one appointment or in just a few weeks with take-home whitening. Whiter teeth tend to make patients look younger and feel more confident about their smiles. A simple teeth whitening treatment may be all you need to dramatically improve the appearance of your smile.
Your teeth have pores, just like a sponge, which causes them to absorb stains.
At your consultation, you’ll discuss your needs with your dentist. If teeth whitening isn’t right for your situation, they can provide alternatives for you. But if teeth whitening is the best option, they will provide a treatment plan that allows you to achieve your desired level of brightness.
To start your at-home teeth whitening treatment, your dentist will take impressions of your teeth using dental trays and putty. These impressions will be sent to a dental lab, where a set of reusable, durable custom whitening trays will be built for your teeth.
In take-home whitening, you can treat your teeth stains and discoloration in the comfort of your own home with a set of reusable trays and professional whitening products. Choosing take-home whitening has a number of different benefits. You can avoid spending too much time in the dentist’s office, and you will be able to whiten your teeth on your own schedule.
In addition, take-home whitening is more gradual and gentle, which makes it a good option if you have sensitive teeth and want to make sure you do not experience any discomfort. Because it offers more gradual results, it’s also less obvious that you have had your teeth whitened, which some patients prefer.
In-office whitening is done in a dental office by your dentist, and provides fast, professional-grade results. It’s typically recommended if you want to whiten your teeth quickly for a special occasion, such as a wedding, presentation, or event.
In the procedure, your dentist will apply a powerful whitener to your teeth and activate it with a UV light, then rinse it away. This process may be repeated several times to achieve your desired level of whiteness.
UV (ultraviolet) whitening is used as part of the in-office whitening procedure, and involves the use of an ultraviolet light that helps activate and excite the peroxide molecules used in teeth whitening products. By doing so, UV whitening helps speed up the process of whitening, and provides you with a brighter smile.
All commonly-used and approved teeth whitening products use chemical whitening agents known as “peroxides.” The two most frequently used chemical compounds are carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide.
These chemicals whiten your teeth at a molecular level by destroying and removing stains. Peroxides contain highly-volatile oxygen molecules that react strongly to the presence of surface stains. When they contact stains, peroxides break the bonds that hold them in place on your teeth, and “bleach” them away from your teeth, leaving behind natural, bright enamel.
Sensitivity after whitening is normal, but should subside within a few days.
Professional teeth whitening that is overseen and administered by a qualified dentist will never damage your teeth. Your dentist will ensure that you get the proper whitening products and that you do not over whiten your teeth.
However, it is possible to damage the teeth by over whitening them. The peroxide-based whiteners used in the teeth whitening process can weaken the teeth and damage the enamel if they are not used properly, or are used too frequently.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to avoid over-the-counter (OTC) teeth whitening kits from sources like Amazon and other websites, which could contain dangerously-high levels of peroxide.
If you do not want to pay for professional teeth whitening services from your dentist, make sure you only use ADA-approved whitening products like Crest Whitestrips. ADA-approved products have relatively low concentrations of peroxide, so the risk of enamel damage from over-whitening is much lower.
There are two categories of teeth whitening products that actually work.
The first are abrasive whiteners, such as toothpaste that contains baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and other very mild abrasives. These abrasives work similarly to sandpaper, rubbing plaque and surface stains away from your teeth. These abrasive whiteners work on minor stains, but the abrasive is not strong enough to damage enamel.
It is recommended that you avoid charcoal toothpaste, which has abrasives that may be hard enough to damage your enamel with frequent use. Stick to an ADA-approved whitening toothpaste product.
The second category of teeth whitening products that actually work are chemical whiteners that contain peroxide. These are available both from dentists and over-the-counter, but it’s best to work with a dentist to get your desired results, and ensure that your teeth are not damaged by over whitening.
To explore your options in further detail and make sure you choose a safe, effective teeth whitening product, get in touch with your dentist for a consult.
The precise reason that whitening causes sensitivity is not fully known, but the leading theory is that it’s due to “dentinal microtubules.” These extremely small, microscopic channels in our teeth connect the exterior of the tooth enamel to the interior nerve, allowing us to feel sensations in our teeth.
The theory is that, since peroxide-based whiteners weaken the enamel very slightly, this exposes the microtubules, which become much more sensitive. Then, as the enamel remineralizes and becomes stronger after the whitening process is over, they are sealed up again, and no longer feel overly sensitive. This would explain why the sensitivity caused by teeth whitening typically only lasts for a few days.
Dental work, like crowns, bridges and veneers, cannot be whitened.