We get a lot of questions from people who are interested in whitening their teeth. After all, your smile is often the first thing someone notices about you. But many things, including coffee, tea, red wine and tobacco, can stain them and cause them to darken. Here are answers to some of the questions we hear most often from people who want a brighter, whiter smile.
How does tooth whitening work?
Whitening products contain a peroxide-based bleach that breaks up both deep and surface stains in tooth enamel. The degree of whiteness that can be achieved will vary based on the condition of your teeth, how much staining you have, and the type of bleaching system you use.
Does whitening work on all teeth?
No. It’s important to talk with your dentist before deciding to whiten your teeth because whiteners may not correct all types of discoloration. Yellow teeth usually bleach well, brown teeth may not respond as well, and teeth with gray tones may not bleach at all. In addition, whitening will not work on caps, veneers, crowns or fillings. And it won’t be effective on tooth discoloration caused by medications or injury to the tooth. (American Dental Association)
What types of professional whitening systems are available?
- Tray-based, at-home whitening. With this method, the dentist creates a mouthguard-type tray from an impression of your upper and lower teeth. A tray made by a dentist is customized to fit your teeth exactly. It allows for maximum contact between the whitening gel and the teeth, and also minimizes the gel’s contact with gum tissue. When it’s time to use the tray, you fill it with a prescription whitening gel and wear it for a specified period of time. That may range from a couple of hours a day to overnight for up to four weeks or longer, depending on how much discoloration you have and your desired level of whitening.
- In-office whitening. This is the fastest way to whiten teeth. With this type of bleaching, the whitening product is applied directly to the teeth. It may be used in combination with heat, a special light, or a laser. Results can be seen in just one 30- to 60-minute treatment. For the most dramatic results, more than one appointment may be needed.
Can a person with very sensitive teeth have their teeth whitened?
In almost all cases, yes. A number of steps can be taken to address the issue of sensitivity:
- The strength of the bleaching solution as well as the length of time teeth are exposed to it can be adjusted.
- The length of time between treatments can be extended.
- A high fluoride, remineralization gel or over-the-counter product such as Crest® Sensi-Stop™ Strips can be used to help stop sensitivity after treatment.
Be sure to discuss your sensitivity problem with your dentist.
There are also things you can do to lessen sensitivity. Take ibuprofen before your treatment and while teeth are sensitive. Avoid foods that are very hot or very cold. Use a prescribed gel or toothpaste made for sensitive teeth along with a soft-bristle toothbrush. And try to avoid foods citrus fruits and foods that are highly acidic.
How long does whitening last?
Teeth whitening isn’t permanent. If you expose your teeth to foods and beverages that cause staining, whitening may start to fade in a little as a month. However, if you avoid those things that stain, you may be able to wait as long as a year before another treatment or touch-up is necessary. (WebMD)
If you have any other questions as you consider whitening your teeth, be sure to call a Howard Family Dental office near you.