We would probably all like to have some A-list, movie-star good looks, but as your dentist, I can only help with your teeth. Fortunately, teeth whitening is a quick and effective way to improve your smile and roll back the effects of time.
Our teeth become discolored for two primary reasons.
We typically start out with sparkling white teeth, which have a surface composed of porcelain-like enamel. Enamel protects the teeth from the rigors of chewing and the chemical composition of our food, but eventually it starts to wear down.
While enamel is the outermost layer of your tooth (and is a bright white), most of your tooth is made from dentin. It’s a light, yellowish color, and when your enamel becomes too thin, that yellow starts showing through.
Additionally, chewing can cause microscopic cracks in enamel. Cracks can be filled with stains that dull the appearance of the teeth.
What Causes Tooth Stains?
There are a variety of factors that can affect the color of your teeth. In no particular order:
Genetics: Not everyone’s teeth can be perfectly white. Your teeth have a genetically-determined natural color. That include light shades of yellow, brown, green, and grey. Without whitening treatment, that color will intensify over time. Some people have teeth that are nearly translucent, which means there is little pigment to whiten during treatment.
Age: Enamel thins as we age, particularly if teeth aren’t cared for. Stains from other factors have had time to accumulate. Generally speaking, teeth darken over time.
Diet: Certain foods and beverages have a stronger effect on teeth than others. Regular consumption of coffee, soda, berries, or red wine can cause significant staining over a length of time. Acidic beverages and foods, even if they are healthy, can contribute to enamel erosion.
Smoking: Despite being very hard on the surface, teeth behave like sponges. They have pore-like structures that can absorb the strong colors of things you regularly consume. Smoking is one habit that will darken your teeth, at least until you whiten them.
Grinding/Trauma: If you’re a grinder, that trauma to your teeth causes excessive microscopic cracks in your enamel, allowing stains to penetrate. It will be more noticeable on the biting surfaces as they start to darken.
I Want to Be Forever Young
Home whitening systems, whether they be trays, strips, or gels, incorporate low-dose bleaching agents that can take weeks to show a visible effect. They can be useful for touch-ups and maintenance, but they aren’t great for someone who wants to make an impactful difference in their appearance.
Professional whitening means that you get the good stuff. Chairside whitening treatment is not only the safest form of whitening, but it yields results that are visible immediately. Teeth whitening can make you appear up to 10 years younger.
What to Expect From Teeth Whitening
Treatment is straightforward, and is not uncomfortable or painful. However, your teeth might be sensitive following whitening. Sensitivity is simply a result of your teeth being dehydrated, reducing their ability to insulate their nerves from temperature change. It’s normal and will subside within one to two days.
Here’s what the whitening process generally looks like:
- A cheek retractor is inserted into the mouth, exposing all the “esthetic zone” teeth (teeth that are visible when you smile).
- A liquid rubber dam or hardening resin is painted onto the gum tissue to protect against any irritation caused by the bleaching gel.
- A bleaching gel containing hydrogen peroxide is applied to the esthetic zone teeth and kept on for approximately 15 to 30 minutes.
- The bleaching gel is suctioned or washed off, and fresh gel is applied for one or more additional periods of 15 to 30 minutes.
- Some whitening treatments incorporate an intense light that is focused on the teeth and is said to activate or enhance the bleaching process. Opinions vary as to whether this light improves the bleaching outcome.
- Between gel applications, the teeth are checked to see how well they have whitened, and whether more bleach needs to be applied.
- After the final gel application, the cheek retractors are removed, the patient rinses, and the immediate post-treatment shade change is measured. The teeth may whiten by as few as two to three shades or as many as eight (out of a total of 16). Part of the whitening effect is due to dehydration during the bleaching process, which makes the teeth look whiter than their true new color. That color will emerge after a couple of days.
For best results, we recommend a cleaning prior to whitening. Schedule a consultation with our North Las Vegas dental team to get started on your whitening treatment.
Have a little bit of coffee discoloration? Not to worry! Dr. Soard and his team can help you get that pearly white smile you’ve been after…give us a call, today.
~Dr. Zachary Soard