Do you want a brighter smile? Teeth whitening can be a very effective way of lightening the natural color of your teeth without removing any of the tooth surface. It cannot make a complete color change, but it may lighten the existing shade.

Why You Would Want Your Teeth Whitened?

There are several reasons why you might choose to whiten your teeth. Just as your hair and skin color vary, so do your teeth. Very few people have brilliant-white teeth, and our teeth can also become discolored as we get older.

‘Calculus’ or tartar can also impact the color of your teeth. Some people may have staining under the surface, which can be caused by certain antibiotics or by any cracks in the teeth as they take up stains.

Why Have Teeth Whitening Done at the Dentist?

Professional teeth whitening delivers optimum results in a relatively short amount of time. The advantage of having teeth whitening done at the dentist’s office are the constant consultations and immediate notice if something goes wrong or is not working. Also, because professional solutions used by your dentist are typically stronger than ever-the-counter kits, your teeth may whiten more quickly.

Tooth bleaching can make teeth temporarily sensitive, or be uncomfortable for people who already have sensitive teeth. When used incorrectly, home kits can lead to burned — even temporarily bleached — gums.

How Does Tooth Whitening Work?

Using state-of-the-art LED light technology, your dentist or dental hygienist could lighten your teeth by as much as five to seven shades in just one appointment.

Professional bleaching is the most common method of whitening teeth. Your dentist will tell you if you are suitable for the treatment, and will supervise the procedure. The bleaching solution is typically much stronger than at-home kits. What’s more, heat, light, or a combination of the two may be used to accelerate and intensify the whitening process.

While in-office teeth whitening is a fairly simple and straightforward procedure, it does require skills to avoid injury to the gingival (gum) area. Gum irritation is not uncommon, nor is tooth sensitivity.

Your dentist will begin preparation for the teeth whitening procedure by taking a mold of your mouth to give you a custom-fitted whitening tray after the procedure is completed. The dentist then makes a record of the current shade of your teeth. Your teeth are then polished with pumice — a grainy material used to remove any plaque on the surface.

Your mouth will be isolated with gauze to keep your teeth dry. Retractors may be used to keep your cheeks, lips, and tongue well away from the whitening solution. A barrier would next be placed along the gumline to further protect it from exposure to the whitening solution.

Next, your teeth will be coated with a whitening solution on the front surface only. The solution usually includes either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide as the bleaching agent.

Many whitening products require a curing light or laser to activate the peroxide. Once applied, the solution is left on the teeth for a half hour or one hour, or reapplied occasionally, depending on the brand.

Once the optimum shade has been reached — or the maximum time has passed — the teeth would be rinsed. A fluoride application may then be used to help ease any tooth sensitivity.
Additional visits to the dentist would be necessary until the desired shade is reached.

After you have finished your teeth whitening procedure, you will likely be told by your dentist to avoid foods or beverages with a high level of pigment for at least 24 hours. These include coffee, tea, tomato sauce, tomato juice, yellow mustard, beets, black grapes, candies, and red wine. Smoking or tobacco should be avoided altogether.

Who Are Good Candidates for Tooth Whitening?

Tooth-whitening gets the best results for people with yellow teeth and is less effective for people with brown teeth. If your teeth are gray or purple, tooth bleaching will probably not work at all.

Precautions for Teeth Whitening

Whiteners work only on the tough outer surface of your teeth, or the enamel.

“If you whiten your teeth too much, you can end up making your natural teeth whiter than neighboring crowns or composite fillings,” said Kellee Kattleman Stanton, DDS and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. “Using whiteners too often, especially in combination with whitening toothpaste, can even turn teeth a little gray.”

Some people should not even consider whitening their teeth. They would include women who are pregnant or nursing and anyone with gum problems or untreated tooth decay. Talk with your dentist first!

If you are interested in having your teeth whitened, we invite you to seek more information by contacting Viewpoint Dentistry at (509) 946-9313.