Teeth whitening (teeth bleaching) is by far the most well-known and common cosmetic dentistry procedure today. The reason for this procedures popularity is that a bright, white smile is valued by both men and women alike and the short answer is that teeth whitening works. Virtually every person who chooses to undergo this treatment will notice a moderate to substantial improvement in the brightness and whiteness of their teeth.
Now, if you are contemplating teeth whitening, there are a few options to decide between. Ultimately, the decision comes down to whether you choose to get your teeth whitened by a dentist or choose an at home whitening solution. Before exploring these two options, it is important to discuss what causes the stains that teeth whitening removes.
Causes of Teeth Staining
Starting colour: First, every person has an inborn tooth colour ranging from greenish-grey to yellow-brownish and this colour intensifies over time. Generally, yellow-brown teeth is more responsive to teeth bleaching or whitening.
Age: Over the years, teeth begin to darken as a result of the accumulation of stains and natural wear and tear. When a teenager undergoes teeth whitening, the results are dramatic and almost immediate. As one gets into their twenties the teeth start to display a yellowish cast and teeth whitening may require a little more time and effort to obtain the same results. Once someone is in their forties, many notice that this yellowing starts to become brown and this may result in more maintenance being required to keep teeth bright. If you’re in your fifties and now considering teeth whitening, it is important to be aware that there may be stubborn stains that are more difficult and time consuming to remove.
Tooth thinness & translucency: As with the starting colour of ones teeth, the thinness and translucency of your teeth is a genetic trait and becomes more pronounced and visible with age. All teeth are translucent to some degree, but those that are more opaque and thick have an advantage. Thicker teeth appear lighter, sparkle more and respond better to bleaching and whitening treatments. The transparency of teeth is virtually the only condition that can’t be corrected by bleaching or teeth whitening.
Smoking: The tar and nicotine in cigarettes leave brownish coloured deposits that actually soak into the teeth and can cause discolouration. This is a very common cause of teeth staining.
Eating habits: The consumption of deeply coloured foods and beverages can contribute substantially to the teeth staining that occurs over the years. Coffee, tea, red wine, cola, oranges and carrots are just a few of the main foods that can stain teeth and contribute to the need for teeth whitening. Additionally, highly acidic foods such as vinegar and citrus fruits can cause the erosion of enamel and cause the yellow-colours dentin of the teeth to show through.
Teeth Whitening Options
Over-the-counter teeth whitening kits: The most convenient and affordable option for teeth whitening is the use of over-the-counter teeth whitening products. These take-home kits have a lower concentration of peroxide and in many cases are only effective in whitening the front teeth as opposed to professionally designed trays dispensed by a dentist. Additionally, what you may not know is that some teeth cannot be whitened using the peroxide solutions used at home. Teeth that have been veneered or restored to match the surrounding teeth will not react the same way your regular teeth will, thus producing an uneven result. Teeth too badly damaged from root canals or internal staining will not likely react to the whitening solutions either due to the damage they have already incurred, and hypersensitive teeth will often become more sensitive after using over-the-counter solutions.
In-Office Whitening: If you’re looking for the most dramatic colour change within the shortest period of time then in-office teeth whitening (bleaching) is probably your best bet. Teeth whitening that is completed by a dentist is significantly more effective because it is done with higher concentration of the active ingredient hydrogen peroxide. Ideally, in-office whitening should be followed up with maintenance whitenings with take home kits to maintain the longevity of your whiter smile.