Everyone looks to have a beautiful, bright, white smile! In fact, tooth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dental treatments performed every year in the United States. However, at New Leaf Rohnert Park, we realize that many people have questions about teeth whitening, and unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there. While our caring team is always here to answer your questions, these top teeth whitening facts answer many common questions and concerns.
- Teeth whitening and bleaching are different methods to make teeth appear whiter.
- Tartar buildup, poor oral hygiene, and food/drinks can stain teeth.
- In-office bleaching is the most effective method, while custom trays/kits may yield better results.
- Teeth sensitivity may occur after whitening, but it doesn’t damage teeth.
- Over-the-counter products have lower concentration and may require more time for results, post-whitening fluoride treatment can reduce sensitivity.
How does teeth whitening work?
When it comes to teeth whitening, it can be confusing. You see products labeled as whitening or bleaching. But is there a difference? While the terms are often used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference. ‘Teeth whitening’ is often used as an umbrella term to include all forms of making teeth appear whiter, while ‘bleaching’ is simply one of those methods.
Teeth whitening occurs every day when you brush your teeth. The abrasive agents in your toothpaste work to remove superficial stains on the outside of your teeth. This also occurs when you visit your dentist for routine dental cleaning. The abrasive agents they use can further help remove the surface stains on your teeth.
Teeth bleaching works a little differently. Peroxide-based chemicals work to penetrate the enamel of your tooth and, through a chemical reaction, work to break down stains beneath the surface. While you can get peroxide-based products over the counter, the peroxide concentration is much lower, and the bleaching process takes much longer than having an in-office bleaching treatment.
Whitening facts that you should know
Patients are often confused as to how the process works — whether it is safe for their teeth or what would work best to improve their smile. Here, we address some of the most asked questions and concerns. When considering teeth whitening, it is always a good idea to talk with your dentist to determine the best treatment options for your needs.
1. Teeth have pores that make them absorb color from the food you eat.
While you may think your teeth are hard and impenetrable, the truth is your teeth are filled with microscopic pores, similar to your skin. When you eat or drink, molecules pass into these pores, resulting in below surface staining. Teeth bleaching works to loosen these molecules, allowing them to lift out of the pores and deliver a whiter smile.
2. Tartar can also affect tooth color.
If your daily oral hygiene routine needs a little work, chances are this could be contributing to your tooth discoloration. When plaque builds up, it creates calculus, or tartar, that can affect the color of your teeth. A dental cleaning can remove this tartar and reveal whiter teeth.
3. Teeth whitening doesn’t damage teeth.
Many people worry that tooth whitening can damage the teeth. The fact is, in most cases, teeth whitening is safe for your teeth. However, you can experience teeth sensitivity after treatment, as well as temporary gum irritation. Problems with teeth whitening products and tooth damage can occur with store-bought products when the directions are not followed or overused.
4. Great teeth bleaching depends on the method of delivery.
Chances are you have seen whitening strips, pens, and even trays available at your local store. While these utilize the same bleaching agents as professional treatments, there are a few things to consider. First, the bleaching agent found in over-the-counter whitening products is a lower concentration, meaning it will need more time on your teeth or multiple treatments. In addition, these methods are a one-size-fits-all option, meaning the contact to your teeth is often uneven, resulting in spotty whitening. A custom tray designed just for your teeth, like you receive in a professional dental treatment, allows for optimal contact with the teeth, reduces teeth and gum sensitivity, and better results.
5. Professional bleaching is the most usual method of teeth whitening.
Professional, in-office bleaching is the most effective teeth whitening method because it caters to your individual needs. Your dentist understands your teeth and uses a custom method of delivery.
6. Custom fitted trays and kits are expensive.
While this is true, you must consider the results you receive. While over-the-counter whitening kits are much cheaper, achieving your whitening goals will require multiple treatments. These are a one-size-fits-all option and are therefore likely to receive uneven whitening results. The higher cost of custom trays helps to ensure better results.
7. You can experience tooth sensitivity after teeth whitening.
Genetics, thin enamel, and tooth damage can all lead to tooth sensitivity, with as many 60 percent of Americans having some form of tooth sensitivity. When whitening agents are used, this can contribute to temporary tooth sensitivity due to temporary dehydration of the tooth. Adding a post-whitening fluoride treatment can help rehydrate the teeth and reduce sensitivity.
8. Laser or UV light teeth whitening is temporary.
All teeth whitening is temporary, and this is true of laser or UV whitening as well. However, the use of laser or UV light does accelerate the whitening agent and can help remove stains faster.
9. You cannot whiten crowns and veneers.
Unlike your teeth, crowns and veneers are not porous, and teeth whitening procedures will not work on them. If you whiten your other teeth and notice a difference, you may need to replace your crowns or veneers to match.
10. The best time to whiten teeth is before bed.
This is actually true and let’s look at why. When you bleach your teeth, the chemicals open the pores of your teeth. Unfortunately, these remain open for a short time after the process, making your teeth more susceptible to staining. Whitening your teeth before bed reduces the risk of further staining at night, allowing the pores in your teeth to close.
11. Not all teeth can be made perfectly white.
If you are looking for that bright Hollywood smile, chances are you may need to consider veneers and not teeth whitening. While whitening and bleaching can remove stains from your teeth to reveal a whiter smile, your natural tooth color was determined at birth, and whitening cannot change this underlying color.
12. The effects of whitening can last up to three years.
Tooth whitening is never a permanent solution unless you plan on giving up food and drinks. How long your results last will depend on the foods you consume. Smoking also plays a role in tooth discoloration and can affect how long your results last. While results can last for years, you may need to undergo whitening treatments every year to maintain your desired whiteness.
13. Teeth whitening can only lighten existing tooth color and not eliminate deep stains.
Teeth whitening, such as brushing your teeth with abrasive toothpaste, can only remove surface stains. Teeth bleaching goes below the surface and can work to return your teeth to their natural color.
Frequently asked questions
In addition to the previous facts shared above, here we answer some common patient questions.
Is teeth whitening safe?
Teeth whitening is safe and effective. When using over-the-counter products, it is essential to follow the directions listed. Before considering over-the-counter products, talk with your dentist about your goals so he/she can help advise you on the safest and most effective treatment options.
What are the side effects of teeth whitening?
When using teeth bleaching products, the most common side effect is temporary tooth sensitivity. In addition, the peroxide-based chemicals can be irritating if they contact the gums, inner cheeks, or lips, which will cause temporary discomfort.
Who is not suitable for teeth whitening?
Tooth whitening is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women, children under the age of 16, or those with extensive dental work, such as fillings, crowns, bridges, and implants.
Is teeth whitening right for you?
If you want a brighter and whiter smile, tooth whitening may be the treatment option you are looking for. The New Leaf Rohnert Park team would love to meet with you and discuss the best possible whitening treatments that will help you reach your smile goals. Contact us online today or call the office at (707) 586-1549 and let us help give you a smile you dream of.