Whitening: Things to know about getting a brighter smile

Brushing and flossing are recognized as everyday ways to keep your teeth bright, white and healthy. However, some people might require additional treatment if they notice a drastic change in color. This will usually be a very common problem for people who have worn braces and find their teeth stained when the braces are removed. This problem is fortunately avoided with patients choosing Invisalign©.

How do teeth change color?

The color of your teeth can change for many reasons. First off, the food and drinks that you choose to consume like coffee, tea or red wine are some major staining culprits. The intense color and pigments found in some of these items are called chromogens and easily latch onto the white outer part of your tooth, also known as enamel. The color change can also be due to the use of tobacco products which contain chemicals like tar and nicotine turning your teeth to a yellowish color. Age will play a strong role in this problem as the outer enamel layer gets thinner with brushing and yellow stains start to take over. Lastly, tooth darkening is also known to be a side effect of certain medications as well as chemotherapy.

How does teeth whitening work?

Teeth whitening is considered to be a simple process. The whitening products used for this procedure contain one of two tooth bleaches; hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These products are usually used to break down stains into smaller pieces leading to a less concentrated color and brighter teeth. Before beginning this process, it is important to speak with your dentist as whiteners may not correct all types of discoloration. For example, yellow teeth will bleach well, brown teeth may not respond as well and teeth with gray tones may not bleach at all. Furthermore, whitening is not made to work on caps, veneers, crowns or fillings and it will not be effective if tooth discoloration is caused by medication or tooth injury.

What are the whitening options?

After discussing with your dentist and moving forward with the whitening process, it is important to consider every option. Here are four ways to put the shine back in your smile:

1. Stain Removal Toothpastes
Most toothpaste are designed to help remove surface stains through mild abrasives that scrub the teeth. When buying toothpaste, look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance for stain removal as the toothpaste have additional polishing properties that are safe for the teeth and provide stain removal effectiveness. Also, the ADA-accepted products will not change the color of your teeth because they can only remove stains on the surface.

2. In-office bleaching
In-office bleaching, also known as chairside bleaching usually requires only one office visit. The dentist applies a protective gel to your gums or a rubber shield to protect the gums. Once that is done, the bleach is then applied to your teeth.

3. At-home bleaching from your dentist
Dentists are usually able to provide a custom-made tray for at-home whitening. In this case, the dentist will give you instructions on how to place the bleaching solution in the mouth tray and for what length of time. This may be a better option if you feel more comfortable whitening in your own home at a slower pace.

4. Over the counter bleaching products
You may see different options online or at your local pharmacy, such as toothpaste or strips designed to whiten by bleaching your teeth. It is important to know that the concentration of the bleaching agent in these products is lower than what your dentist would use in their office. If you are considering using an over-the-counter bleaching kit, discuss options with your dentist and look for one with the ADA seal of Acceptance. This seal ensures that the product has been tested to be safe and effective for teeth whitening.