Everyone wants a white, healthy smile. Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned. Stains and discolorations are all-too-common dental problems, which explains why teeth whitening is such a popular procedure. Regular oral exams and cleanings can ward off the majority of stains, but some things are beyond your control. The simple act of aging can produce stains, and various environmental and lifestyle factors can too. The good news is that most stains can be resolved through safe, effective teeth whitening procedures.
Avoid Stains with Good Oral Hygiene and Smart Habits
Avoiding stains on the teeth is a lot better than having to remove them. Excellent oral hygiene, including daily brushing and flossing, can help you avoid the majority of stains. Visit the dentist to have your teeth cleaned at least twice a year.
Another great way to prevent stained teeth is by avoiding certain foods and drinks or brushing immediately after enjoying them. Examples include red wine, coffee and soda drinks. Tobacco use can quickly and permanently stain teeth and is also bad for your health, so kick the habit as quickly as possible.
Are You an Ideal Candidate for Teeth Whitening?
As effective as teeth whitening can be, it's not appropriate for everyone. Whether you decide to use an over-the-counter teeth whitening product or opt for a dentist-supervised procedure, you should consult with your dentist to find out whether it's safe. Certain types of teeth should not be exposed to even mild concentrations of carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, which are used in these procedures and products.
Conditions that might preclude you from undergoing teeth whitening include:
- Tooth decay
- White spots on the teeth
- Infection of the gums
- Discolored teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Certain types of dental work, including crowns and bridges
How does Teeth Whitening Work?
Teeth whitening involves a chemical reaction that penetrates the enamel of the teeth to bleach stains below the surface. Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide may be used. In either case, these chemicals work their way into the porous parts of the enamel to bleach stain deposits in the dentin, which is the layer just below the enamel. Teeth whitening at a dental office is hastened through the use of special lights that accelerate the bleaching process.
Teeth Whitening: Explore Your Options
If you've ever walked through a drugstore, you already know that there are entire sections dedicated to teeth-whitening products. These over-the-counter teeth-whitening kits are easy to use, but they aren't usually the best option. Don't use one without consulting with your dentist first. After doing that, you will probably choose to have the whitening performed in the office or with a take-home kit from your dentist instead.
The main problem with over-the-counter teeth-whitening products is that they're not as strong as the products your dentist can supply. You may have to expose your teeth to whitening chemicals over longer periods of time to achieve noticeable results, which can be detrimental to the health of your teeth. Furthermore, your dentist won't really be involved in the process, which can lead to problems later.
Take-Home Kits from Your Dentist
A nice alternative to over-the-counter teeth-whitening kits are take-home kits provided by your dentist. They are actually similar to what you'll find in drugstores, but they contain stronger chemicals that produce results a lot more quickly. When used as directed, they can also whiten your teeth more dramatically.
The primary advantage of a take-home kit is that it's convenient. It's also reassuring to know that it has been approved by your dentist. After a routine oral exam or teeth cleaning appointment, your dentist will send you home with the kit. You will receive instructions on how to use it properly. A follow-up appointment may be scheduled to ensure that the kit has worked and that you're satisfied with the results.
In-Office Teeth Whitening
Like many people, you may be anxious to see results right away. You may also simply prefer to have this work performed in a professional setting. In-office teeth-whitening procedures are available, and they typically take around 45 minutes to complete.
The process is simple. A dental assistant will cover your gums and lips to protect them from the whitening gel, which will be applied to the teeth. A special light will be directed at the teeth to speed up the whitening process. You can expect this to last for about 15 minutes. At that point, more gel will be applied, and the process will be repeated. The gel will be applied a final time, and you will be all set when the last 15-minute interval is complete.
In the dentist's office, you can expect the teeth-whitening procedure to lighten your teeth by five to 10 shades, and you'll step out with a brighter, whiter smile.