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Franklyn Alexander, DDS
General & Cosmetic Dentistry

Patients Choice Winner 2016

Teeth Whitening Expectations

White teeth make us feel instantly more confident, which is why more and more people are looking in to teeth whitening to brighten up their smiles and improve their outlook. If you’re thinking about having your teeth whitened, it’s a good idea to be aware of the reasons that teeth become stained, the different types of whitening available and what types of results you can expect.

What causes teeth to darken?

A variety of factors affect the color of your teeth, but generally you can expect teeth to darken with age and/or in response to certain foods and beverages. As we grow older, the protective layer of enamel on the outside of our teeth gradually weakens and wears away, exposing the more porous and stain-prone material underneath. If your diet contains a lot of heavily staining foods, like black tea or coffee, you can expect this process to happen more quickly. Any food or drink that is high in acidity as well as dark in color tends to be more staining; the acids soften the enamel, allowing the dark pigments in the food to penetrate this weakened outer layer.

Tobacco is another big culprit when it comes to tooth staining; whether it’s smoked or chewed, tobacco use will continue to contribute to stains until you quit. Of course, nature plays a part in the color of your teeth as well- some people have naturally white teeth, even if their hygiene is less than perfect, while others who observe ideal brushing and flossing habits may be more prone to staining.

What Types of Teeth Whitening are Available?

For those with mild to moderate staining, home whitening kits can be successful. These are available at most drug stores and come in a wide variety of formulas such as gels, strips and trays. There are also a few different formulas available- mainly hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide – so if you get underwhelming results or experience irritation from one formula, you may want to try a different one after checking with your dentist. Home kits often need to be used consistently over a period of days or weeks to achieve results, and will generally result in no more than a few shades of lightening.

If your stains are more severe (if you want to whiten more than a few shades) you should consider making a trip to the dentist’s office. In-office bleaching is often more effective and works more quickly than a do-it-yourself kit. Your dentist will also offer multiple types of bleaching processes based on your needs. They may use a type of concentrated bleaching gel in trays, or a laser bleach system in which a special gel is applied to the teeth and then exposed to a laser which quickly lightens the color of the teeth. Whitening done by a dentist is likely to work much more quickly than a store-bought kit, and you can expect the results to be more dramatic.

What else should I keep in mind when deciding how to whiten?

Any bleaching process can leave your teeth temporarily sensitive, but if a certain process is extremely uncomfortable, stop using it immediately and let your dentist know before trying anything else. Also remember that blindingly white teeth aren’t natural-looking; you don’t need to keep bleaching and bleaching until your teeth are paper-white. Abnormally bright teeth are arguably just as distracting as stained teeth, so use good judgment and follow your dentist’s advice.