Brushing and flossing are everyday ways to keep your teeth bright, white and healthy. Still, if you feel like your smile is lacking some sparkle or more yellow than they used to be, teeth whitening might be a good option for you.
What causes stains on your teeth?
Your teeth can become less bright for a variety of reasons including:
- Food and Drink: Coffee, tea and red wine are some major staining culprits. What do they have in common? Intense color pigments that attach to the white, outer part of your tooth.
- Tobacco Use: Two chemicals found in tobacco create stubborn stains: tar and nicotine. Tar is naturally dark. Nicotine is colorless until mixed with oxygen, which turns it into a yellowish, surface staining compound.
- Age: Below the enamel surface of your tooth is a softer, yellowish area called dentin. As you age and the enamel wears down, the more yellow dentin shows through causing your teeth to look yellow.
- Trauma: If you’ve been hit in your mouth, the traumatized tooth may produce more dentin, causing discoloration of the tooth.
- Medications: Certain medications, such as antihistamines and high blood pressure medications can cause tooth darkening. Antibiotics like tetracycline can also cause tooth darkening in young children who are exposed to those antibiotics as their teeth are forming.
How does teeth whitening work?
Whitening products contain either hydrogen or carbamide peroxide which break stains down into smaller pieces, making them less visible.
What options exist for teeth whitening?
There are several different options for tooth whitening with varying degrees of effectiveness. In-office bleaching will require a visit to your dentist’s office, where your dentist will first apply a gel or shield to protect your gums. Then, they will apply a bleaching gel to your teeth. There are also at-home options for teeth whitening. Your dentist can give you a bleaching gel and create bleaching trays that will allow you to whiten your teeth from the comfort of your own home. This process is a little longer than in-office bleaching but gives you more flexibility on when to start and stop. There are also over -the-counter whitening options, such as strips, which have a lower concentration of bleaching agent than what your dentist may give you. Finally, the last whitening option that exists are stain removal toothpastes or whitening toothpastes. These remove surface stains, but do not change the color of your tooth from within. Ask your dentist for their recommendation on which whitening route is best for you to achieve your brightest, whitest smile!
Are there side effects?
Tooth bleaching may cause temporary tooth sensitivity. If you experience this, ask your dentist for further advice or delay treatment until the sensitivity subsides.