Coffee. Tea. Red wine. Cranberry juice. Pasta sauce. Even blueberries. All of these common foods can stain your teeth. Brushing well will definitely help, but some of us are more prone to long-term changes in the color of our teeth than others, even if we are good brushers. Also, as we age, the enamel of our teeth may get a little thinner allowing the darker colored dentin layer below to show through a little bit more giving our teeth a darker appearance.
What can we do about it?
First, there are whitening toothpastes. You cannot go far in the toothpaste aisle at the pharmacy without being bombarded with all sorts of specialty toothpastes offering you a dazzling white smile if you use their product. Many of these products do work well to help break down and remove many surface stains that build up from the things we eat and drink. They do have much success at removing the deeper stains within the tooth that are often the reason for seeking whiter teeth.
Whitening gels are the most common form of what is referred to as “take home” bleaching. These are either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide based products that penetrate into the enamel and break down the stain molecules to remove them leaving your teeth a brighter color. These gels can be applied to your teeth either on a special strip such as Crest White Strips or in a customized tray much like a sports mouth guard. This allows the bleaching gel to stay in contact with the enamel for the desired amount of time to allow the gel to whiten the teeth. Depending on the brand of the product, these trays or strips will be applied for 30 to 60 minutes or in some cases overnight while you sleep. The advantage of the customized tray system is that it allows for a more accurate delivery of the gel to the tooth surface with less of the gel being wasted or spreading up onto the gums where it may cause the gums to be irritated.
Will all teeth whiten with equal success? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is “no”.
Certain colors of teeth will whiten more successfully than others: Yellow teeth will brighten the best. Brown based stain will improve to a lesser extent and bluish grey teeth will show the least improvement.
Any tooth which has darkened as a result of medication taken during childhood or which have darkened following a trauma will not likely change color to the desired level. Any tooth that has a restoration on it such as a crown, veneer or basic filling will not change color because these materials are not susceptible to the bleaching process. This does not stop you from whitening your teeth, it just means that, once you are finished whitening, you will have to replace the restorations on these teeth to match the new color of the rest of your teeth.
For these reasons it is always best to discuss your individual case with your dentist before you start just to be sure that you are indeed a good candidate for whitening.
“In office” whitening is another option in which a bright light or laser is used to activate a special whitening gel that is applied to the teeth. While this provides an initial “jump start” to your whitening process, in most cases a follow-up treatment with take-home trays is necessary to achieve successful long-term results.
The process of whitening is best done under the supervision of your dentist so that if issues such as sensitivity of either the gums or the teeth develop, you will be in good hands to solve the problem.
The process of “take-home” whitening involves two short office visits. The first visit is when we assess your individual condition and discuss your expectations. Once it is determined that you are a good candidate for the procedure, we will take impressions of your mouth so that we can build a set of custom-made trays. On the second visit, three or four days later, your dentist will ensure the trays fit perfectly and then show you how to apply the gel in a predictable and safe manner. It’s easy and fast to learn how to apply the gel and insert the trays. Before you leave, we want to ensure you’re comfortable with how the trays feel and we’ll answer any questions you have about the whitening process.
After a week or so of home whitening, we invite you to drop in so we can assess your short-term results and be sure that you are following the steps properly.
If you think you would like a whiter, brighter smile and want to know if you are a good candidate, we welcome you to call our office at 514-484-0521 and set up a consultation appointment so that we can discuss your individual case.
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