Most of us are born with bright white teeth, but as we grow older they can stain or become dingy. The good news is that most discoloration isn’t permanent. Your dentist can easily and safely return your teeth to their natural whiteness.
Before you begin any whitening process, your teeth and gums must be cleaned. You will consult with our whitening expert to determine if there are any concerns, such as periodontal disease.
In our office, we offer two procedures:
- Whiten your teeth at home, the option we usually recommend. We take an impression of your teeth, then provide you with custom trays and a two-week supply of the whitening product. You fill the trays and wear them every day until the product is used up. Some people sleep with the trays; others wear them for a specified time each day.
- Have your teeth whitened in our office while you wait. The process takes about two hours and, because the bleach ingredients are stronger, requires first blocking off all the gum tissue to prevent irritation. Then we paint your teeth with the whitening product in three 20-minute sessions. The repetition ensures we remove as much staining as possible.
Many of our patients have questions about teeth whitening. Here are some of the frequently asked ones.
What causes teeth to become dingy?
A common cause is neglect. Not taking proper care of your teeth – brushing and flossing and seeing your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups – can result in dingy teeth.
But your lifestyle affects your tooth color, too, including:
- Food choices: Dark foods – red wine, colas, coffee, even blueberries and spaghetti sauce – will discolor teeth over time.
- Smoking: Tobacco can cause deep brown stains on teeth.
- Aging: Teeth may naturally turn more yellow as we age, especially if the enamel becomes thinner.
- Medications: Some antibiotics, often in early childhood, may cause teeth to stain or darken.
Once the teeth are whitened, will they stay that way?
No, they will eventually lose their sheen. To maintain whiteness, you can pick up a small amount of bleaching product after each dental appointment to use at home with your tray.
Does whitening hurt the tooth enamel?
Not at all. The process opens up the pores of the teeth and lets the solution flow inside to clean them. It doesn’t affect the enamel. You could bleach every day without harm.
Will you bleach my teeth movie star-white?
That depends. If your teeth are naturally blinding white, you may achieve that shade again. But everyone’s natural tooth color is different, and most are not that white. Your teeth can’t be bleached whiter than your original color no matter how much solution you apply. In addition, if you have crowns or implants, which cannot be lightened, your natural teeth will have to match them.
What about over-the-counter products?
These are safe for your teeth but are not as strong as the products your dentist uses, so the results may not be as satisfying. If you prefer this alternative, however, most dentists recommend using strips, like Crest strips, on upper and lower teeth. If your teeth are exceptionally large, these strips may be too small to cover them, leaving a line where the whitening stops.
And whitening toothpastes?
These can help lighten but many can be abrasive, which can cause wear on the enamel. Look for protective products such as low-abrasive Sensodyne True White, which is gentle on your teeth and helps prevent new straining. Sensodyne Pronamel helps protect and harden your tooth enamel.
You don’t need to hide your smile because of stained or discolored teeth. Your dentist can restore your pearly whites to their bright, natural, youthful shade.