Brushing and flossing are very effective at keeping teeth healthy, but you may notice that, even with the most diligent of oral routines, your teeth are yellowing. If this is the case, you may be considering a tooth whitening treatment. Here are a few questions you might have about the procedure.
Why did my teeth turn yellow?
There are several reasons why teeth lose their whiteness over time. The largest culprit is food and drink. In particular, coffee, tea, and red wine are to thank for staining teeth. Additionally, tobacco use creates stubborn stains. Trauma and medications can also have an effect in the color of the teeth. Finally, the reason can be as simple as aging – over time, the enamel of the teeth wears down, revealing the layer below (dentin), which is more yellow in color.
How does teeth whitening work?
The procedure is fairly simple and quick. Whitening products contain either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which are bleaches that break stains into smaller pieces. This causes the color to become less concentrated and your teeth to appear brighter.
Does whitening work on all teeth?
Unfortunately, not all teeth can be successfully whitened. Certain types of discoloration do not respond to the bleaching process, such as brown teeth or teeth with gray tones. Whitening also does not work on teeth that have been treated with caps, veneers, crowns, or fillings or teeth with discoloration caused by medications or an injury.
What are my whitening options?
There are several options available to whiten teeth. Whitening toothpastes contain mild abrasives that scrub the teeth to help remove surface stains. In-office bleaching (also called chairside bleaching) utilizes a bleach that is applied directly to the teeth. The gums are protected by a gel or rubber shield. The procedure usually lasts about an hour. At-home bleaching is done using a gel that is placed in a tray and worn for a certain period of time. These peroxide-containing whiteners bleach the tooth enamel. You can also use a whitening strip that sticks to the teeth. The concentration of at-home bleaching treatments is lower than ones used in an in-office treatment, but may be more convenient for you.
Tooth sensitivity is the most common side effect of teeth whitening, but this is usually temporary. Talk to your dentist about the best whitening option for you.