Teeth can darken, stain and become discolored over time. Whitening toothpastes, chewing gum, and mouth rinses do not very effectively whiten teeth because they cannot reach the intrinsic stains within a tooth. Intrinsic stains are stains that lie deep within a tooth in microcracks in the enamel, and even in the dentin layer- below the enamel layer of the tooth. Professional whitening works by using a formula that safely penetrates the enamel. The whitening agent acts by distributing oxygen molecules that break the bonds that hold together the molecules causing discoloration. The result of this is whiter teeth and a brighter smile. Professional teeth whitening utilizes whitening agents with active ingredients of hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide and fluoride. Unlike store-bought whitening systems, professional whitening systems are only available through a dentist, due to the superior high concentration of active ingredients, and customized treatment and delivery methods.
There are two options of professional whitening systems: In-office and take-home. In-office whitening, as the name implies, is performed at the dental office using a higher concentration of active ingredient and dramatically boosts your teeth many shades whiter in about an hour. A special barrier is applied to the gums around your teeth to protect the soft tissues during whitening. For this reason, this treatment cannot be done at home, and must safely be carried out under a dentist’s supervision. The take-home whitening system involves having impressions or molds made of your teeth at the dentist office. From these models of your mouth, clear plastic trays are made just for you. Often times with store-purchased whitening strip systems, patients will see streaking or uneven whitening of the teeth, as the strips cannot perfectly adapt around every tooth angle. With your custom-made trays, the whitening agent can reach every surface of each tooth. Your dentist will give you these trays and syringes of whitening gel to take home with you. You will place a small amount of whitening gel in each tooth space within the tray, then wear the tray for 30 minutes or even all night as you sleep. You may do this only a few days a year, for maintenance, or everyday for two weeks to get dramatically whiter, or if it is your first time. The amount of time is determined with your dentist and is based on your starting tooth shade, sensitivity, and concentration of product. The take-home whitening gel even comes in a variety of flavors.
When to consider whitening your teeth:
- You have yellow, brown, or grey stained and discolored teeth.
- You want a boost to show your sparkling smile for an important occasion or event.
- You want to maintain the nice white shade you already have, and prevent darkening of your teeth.
- Whitening your teeth can really help your beautiful smile to sparkle and stand out, with minimal cost and time involved.
- Working with a dentist to whiten your teeth is safe, non-damaging, and effective.
- Some people who are prone to sensitive teeth may develop increased sensitivity to whitening. To combat this, many patients choose to use an anti-sensitivity toothpaste during the times of whitening their teeth.
Many people who consider teeth whitening also consider veneers, composite resin bonding, and Invisalign.