Tooth whitening is extremely popular. There are a great number of products on the market to choose from. But what do you need to know before deciding if whitening is a good choice for you? First, let’s talk about what makes your teeth appear “yellow or dark”. Understanding this will help you make better decisions and have realistic expectations when considering whitening your teeth.
Teeth that appear stained, yellow, dark or discolored can be due to a number of reasons.
1. Extrinsic (surface) stains can be caused by coffee, tea, wine, or tobacco use. Plaque and calculus build-up can also make your teeth look yellow.
2. Intrinsic (internal) discoloration can be caused by medications, aging, trauma to the tooth, diseases of enamel and dentin, fluorosis, or conditions present while the teeth were being formed.
Surface stains can often be removed by receiving regular dental cleanings from your dental hygienist. Brushing regularly, 2 minutes 2x a day, will keep your teeth looking bright, white and healthy. Decreasing your coffee, tea, or wine intake and reducing/eliminating tobacco use will help keep stains from coming back.
Heavier stains or internal discoloration may require tooth whitening by your dentist in conjunction with OTC products. Consult with your dentist to determine the best course of treatment. Some types of discoloration will not respond well to whitening and may need another type of treatment.
Home whitening products (strips or trays worn over the teeth) most often contain carbamide peroxide in a 10-20% concentration. Carbamide peroxide penetrates tooth enamel and breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and urea. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water and oxygen. Oxygen molecules break down the bonds of larger organic compounds that discolor the tooth. The ADA has given their Seal of Acceptance to several OTC 10% carbamide peroxide products for their safety and efficacy.
Most products recommend twice daily treatments of 30 minutes to 2 hours. Treatment times vary from 2 weeks to 6 weeks. Maximum lightening, generally 1-2 shades lighter, occurs within 6 weeks. Continuing to treat past the manufacturer’s recommendations may increase unwanted side effects. Retreatment may be required after 1-7 years.
When not to whiten your teeth:
1. If you have crowns, veneers, or dental fillings on the teeth that you want to whiten. Some studies have shown that whitening agents may adversely affect your existing dental work. Also, whitening will not lighten existing dental restorations.
2. If you plan to have dental fillings done, talk to your dentist about the proper time to whiten.
Side effects that may occur include: gum irritation, tooth sensitivity, and sore throat. Tooth sensitivity can be prevented or treated with fluoride, desensitizing agents or decreasing the amount of time or frequency of product use. Most side effects will subside when you stop whitening. Contact your dentist if you have questions about whitening or experience side effects that don’t subside.
For more information and videos on tooth whitening go to: www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/w/whitening