If your teeth are not as bright as they used to be, or as white as you’d like them to be, then whitening or bleaching them may be the solution. Surface stains from coffee, tea, red wine or tobacco may be the most likely culprits. Internal staining can also be the result of root canal treatments, large fillings, too much of a good thing, like fluoride — or just plain aging. In some cases taking an antibiotic (tetracycline) during tooth development can cause permanent staining. In most cases bleaching stained or yellow teeth can really make a difference, helping to make them brighter and whiter.
The active ingredient in whitening products is hydrogen peroxide, which is also the breakdown product in carbamide peroxide. If a good regular dental cleaning doesn’t remove your stains, then these products can bleach stains that are either superficial (on the surface) or deeper within the tooth structure. “In office” professional tooth whitening speeds the process along with the use of specialized lights or lasers, so that your teeth will whiten after only one or two office visits. Professional whitening or bleaching, which uses up to 35% peroxide solutions, may cause transient tooth sensitivity, but this will fade away quickly within a few days. Gum protection is also necessary to prevent irritation.
The effects of bleaching usually last six months to a year, at which time all that may be necessary is a minor touch up or refresher. And your whiter, brighter teeth will last longer if you avoid the habits that caused them — like avoiding smoking and foods that cause staining.
Whitening products for home use are an alternative to professional whitening systems that we apply in the office. Products for home use have a lower concentration of the active bleaching ingredients. We can make you custom fitted “trays” that exactly fit your teeth, and provide you with home strength whiteners, so that you can whiten at your own pace and stop at the brightening level of your choice.
And finally there are over-the-counter (OTC), whitening products, at even lower strengths for safety, but they are slower to work.
If whitening doesn’t give you the smile you want, and deserve, then you may need to consider veneers or crowns to improve your smile.
Make an appointment to have a consultation with us about your personal cosmetic needs. We will review all the risks, benefits and alternatives to bleaching. You can learn more about teeth whitening by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teeth Whitening: Bleaching is an effective method with minimal side effects.”