Teeth whitening or bleaching products brighten teeth that have been stained or darkened by food, tobacco use, age or injury. There are a variety of in-office and take-home teeth whitening products to reduce or eliminate such stains.
What is Teeth Whitening?
Teeth whitening targets stains in the enamel of our teeth. When you eat a strawberry, the deep red penetrates your enamel as you chew. Most of the color disappears as saliva continues to break down most of the molecules. However, over time, more staining foods and drinks continue to penetrate your enamel, causing tooth discoloration.
Teeth whitening uses a bleaching agent, hydrogen peroxide, to penetrate the enamel. This bleaching agent works very similarly to common detergent an how it loosens and removes the stains from clothing. The bleaching agent enters the enamel just as the stain did, breaks it down, an washes it away. Teeth whitening agents have the ability to restore deep stains ranging from 3 to 8 shades darker than the original white tooth color. Once your treatment is complete, you are left with your original natural, bright, white color.
Why Teeth Stain?
Some people are more prone to teeth staining in comparison to others. This can be due to the fact that everyone has slightly different shades of enamel as well as some may have more porous enamel. Aside from these natural phenomenons, there are many other factors that could lead to teeth staining. This includes the following:
- Food — Common fruits include blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Natural pigments in dark chocolate can also stain the enamel of your teeth.
- Drink — Common stain causing drinks include coffee, tea, red wine, cranberry, and other dark juices. Even cola soft drinks all can stain teeth.
- Smoking — Nicotine leaves yellow stains on your teeth.
- Fluorosis — If a child has too much fluoride, it can cause this condition, which stains the teeth. This staining is in the dentin.
- Drugs — A heavily used antibiotic in the 60s and 70s named tetracycline is known for its permanent teeth discoloration.
- Genes — The enamel on some people’s teeth is darker than others. Also, some people have enamel that is more porous and stains easier.
In-Office Teeth Whitening
In-office teeth whitening, also called chairside bleaching, takes place during a series of appointments at a dentist’s office. Advantages of in-office teeth whitening over take-home whitening include:
- Professional supervision
- Safe and simple
- No sensitivity
Take-Home Teeth Whitening Products
Take-home bleaching solutions can help improve the color and overall brightness of teeth. These kits are simpler and less expensive than, and can be just as effective as, in-office treatments. Dentists provide patients with customized impression trays, whitening powder and whitening gel, the use of which improves the appearance of teeth over just a few days.
Over-The-Counter Teeth Whitening Products
Various over-the-counter products, such as whitening toothpaste and bleaching strips, are advertised as being effective teeth-whiteners. However, although based on the same science as professional bleaching, the concentration of effective ingredients tends to be much lower, lengthening treatment time and often not providing the level of whitening desired.
Whitening procedures are effective but not permanent. Depending on the procedure used, whitening may fade over time. Patients are advised to avoid food and drinks that may stain or darken teeth.