Feel that brushing and flossing are not keeping your teeth bright and white? You aren’t alone. When the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry asked people what they’d most like to improve about their smile, the most common response was “whiter teeth”. A followup survey by The American Association of Orthodontists found that almost 90% of patients have requested tooth whitening.

Have Question About Tooth Whitening?

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve experienced. If you don’t see your question – or answer- here, give us a call!

Why Did My Teeth Change Color?

There are several reasons that may make dull the color of your teeth. The most common are:

Food and Drink
Intense color pigments called chromogens can attach to your tooth enamel. These pigments can be found in common beverages like coffee, tea and red wine.

Tobacco Use
Tar and nicotine are two chemicals found in tobacco that will create stubborn stains. Tar is naturally dark. And even though nicotine is colorless, once it’s mixed with oxygen it turns into a yellowish, surface-staining substance.

As you age the enamel layer of your teeth will thin. Below the enamel is a softer yellowish layer called dentin. As the enamel thins, the more yellow dentin will begin to show through the enamel.

If you’ve had trauma to your teeth, your tooth may change color because it reacts to an injury by laying down more dentin, which is a darker layer under the enamel.

A number of medications will affect tooth color; antihistamines, antipsychotics and high blood pressure medications, antibiotics and even chemotherapy or head and neck radiation can also darken teeth.

How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

Teeth whitening is a simple straightforward process, using products that contain one of two types of bleaches, hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These bleaches basically break stains into smaller pieces, making the color less concentrated and subsequently your teeth will look brighter.

Does Whitening Work on All Teeth?

Unfortunately, not everyone is a good candidate for tooth whitening. Please see us for a consultation before using any at home whitening product. Depending on the health and condition of your teeth, you may experience painful tooth sensitivity or poor results. Yellow teeth may bleach well, brown teeth may not respond as well and teeth with gray tones may not bleach at all. Whitening will not work on caps, veneers, crowns or fillings and it won’t be effective if the discoloration is caused by medications or a tooth injury.

What Are My Whitening Options?

As stated earlier, please consult with us or your dental healthcare professional before using any whitening products. If whitening is appropriate for your smile, there are several tools that can brighten your smile.

Whitening Toothpastes
Even though all toothpastes have mild abrasives that scrub the teeth, whitening toothpastes have special chemical or polishing agents which provide additional stain removal. Unlike bleaching, whitening toothpastes do not change the color of teeth because they only remove surface stains.

In-Office Bleaching
Chairside bleaching normally requires only one office visit. We protect your gums and then apply a whitening agent to your teeth. A special light activates the chemicals in the whitening agent for maximum whitening.

At-Home Bleaching
Peroxide-containing whiteners actually bleach the tooth enamel. They typically come in a gel and are placed in a tray that fits on your teeth. You may also use a whitening strip that sticks to your teeth.

Are There Any Side Effects from Teeth Whitening?

Earlier we noted that some people may experience tooth sensitivity. This sensitivity occurs when the peroxide in the whitener gets through the enamel to the soft layer of dentin, irritating the nerve of your tooth. Also, overuse of whiteners can also damage the tooth enamel or gums, so be sure to follow directions and please consult with a dental professional before undertaking any at home whitening.

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