Dental Whitening

Key Facts About Dental Whitening Options

In order to maintain a bright, healthy smile, it is necessary to brush and floss on a daily basis and follow a proper oral hygiene routine. However, if you still feel as though your teeth are not as white as they could be, you are in good company. According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, most people who were asked what they would like to fix about their teeth said that they want a greater degree of whiteness.

The American Association of Orthodontists also found that tooth whitening was among the most requested procedures among patients. If you are considering dental whitening, it is wise to gain some knowledge on the topic before moving forward. The paragraphs below provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the process of whitening your teeth.

What Causes Tooth Discoloration?

There are many reasons why teeth can lose their whiteness over the course of years. First of all, there are certain foods and drinks, such as:

  • tea
  • coffee 
  • red wine

These substances are known for causing tooth staining. All of these contain chromogens or intense pigments, that can attach themselves to the enamel of the teeth, causing whiteness to fade.

Tobacco Usage

Tobacco is another culprit when it comes to stained teeth, mainly because of the tar and nicotine contained in such products. While tar is dark, nicotine is naturally colorless until it mixes with oxygen, at which point it transforms into a yellowish substance that has the capacity to stain.


Underneath the enamel of natural teeth is a soft substance known as dentin. With the passage of time, the enamel gets worn down and the dentin, which is yellower in color, begins to show.

Dental Trauma

It is not uncommon for those who have been hit in the mouth to experience a change in tooth color. This is because teeth respond to trauma by producing additional dentin, which again, has a yellowish cast to it.

Medication Discoloration

Those with darker-colored teeth are often patients who have used certain drugs, including antihistamines, high blood pressure medications, and antipsychotics. Kids who have taken a good amount of antibiotics including doxycycline and tetracycline during the formation of their teeth may also suffer from discoloration even of their adult teeth. It is also common for radiation and chemotherapy treatments to result in a darkening of the teeth.

The Dental Whitening Process

The process of whitening teeth is not complicated. The products used to create the desired effect contain a bleach of either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. The bleach will break tooth stains into small pieces, which works to give the teeth a brighter appearance.

Can All Teeth be Whitened in this Way?

Unfortunately, no they cannot. As such, it is best to consult with a dentist ahead of choosing a tooth whitening procedure, because not all discolorations can be addressed in this way. For instance, teeth that are yellow will likely respond well to whitening processes.

Brown teeth are unlikely to lighten to a significant degree, and teeth that exhibit gray discoloration may not change at all. Whitening processes are not effective on capped teeth, crowns, fillings, or veneers. Further, if a tooth's discoloration is the result of a medication or dental trauma, whitening procedures are unlikely to work.

Tooth Whitening Options

For those whose discoloration is the sort that will likely respond to whitening procedures, there are several available options.

Stain-Removing Toothpaste

Toothpastes of all varieties work to eliminate surface staining due to the mild abrasives they contain. It is best to use products that bear the ADA Seal of Acceptance for the purpose of stain removal. Such pastes will contain added polishing substances that are known to be safe and will help remove staining.

Because they are not bleaching products, these toothpastes will not alter tooth color but will help reduce surface staining.

Chairside Bleaching

This type of whitening process happens in a dental office and tends to require just a single visit. A practitioner will use a protective gel on the gums first, or perhaps a rubber shied, and will then apply a bleach product directly to the teeth.

At-Home, Dentist-Sanctioned Processes

Dentists can also offer custom-made trays to facilitate whitening at home. For such a process, a dentist will provide clear instructions on using the bleach together with the tray and how long the solution needs to sit on the teeth. This can be a great choice for those who wish to whiten the teeth on their own time and at their own pace, but like having the oversight of a professional.

Bleaching of this sort may require from a few days up to a few weeks.

OTC Commercial Bleaching Options

There is always a range of whitening products available in drug and grocery stores, including whitening strips and toothpastes that bleach the natural teeth. It is worth noting that the bleach concentration in over-the-counter products will be lower than that provided by a dentist. If you want to consider this type of bleaching product, consult with a dentist and seek one that has earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

That way you will know that the product is safe as well as effective.

Are There Any Downsides to Dental Whitening?

It should be noted that there are some individuals who undergo a whitening process and go on to experience sensitivity in the teeth. The reason for this is that sometimes peroxide makes its way through the tooth enamel, reaches the dentin layer, and causes nerve irritation. Generally speaking, this type of sensitivity will be temporary in nature.

If it occurs, consider stopping treatment for a while and then trying again at a later time. Excessive use of whitening products is also known to harm the enamel and/or the gums, and therefore it is wise to heed instructions carefully and always consult with a dental professional for advice. By heeding the information provided above, it really is possible to make noticeable improvements to the overall look of the teeth and get the smile you have always wanted.

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