Teeth stains and discolorations can have adverse effects on your interactions with people, especially the way you smile and talk. This could extend to other areas of your life, including your work and interpersonal associations. Teeth whitening is a way to enhance your smile and give your self-confidence a boost. This article focuses on the essential facts you should know, including the basics of teeth whitening.
Causes of stained or discolored teeth
To choose the best and most suitable teeth whitening procedure, it is vital that you acquaint yourself with the causes of teeth stains and discolorations. Stains form on the teeth through the consumption of tea, red wine and other acidic drinks that weaken the tooth enamel. Smoking and the use of most tobacco products can also stain the teeth.
Other agents of discoloration include certain types of antibiotics and injuries that impair the tooth structure. The teeth could also become discolored with aging. This is because the tooth enamel deteriorates over time, exposing the yellowish inner layer (dentin) of the teeth. Understand that some teeth whitening procedures are not useful for some types of stains or discolorations.
How teeth whitening works
Teeth whitening acts by changing the color of the tooth’s interior (otherwise called intrinsic whitening) or cleaning stains off the tooth’s exterior (called extrinsic whitening).
Intrinsic whitening is done to whiten the dentin, or the inner layer of the tooth, using hydrogen peroxide gel (called bleach or whitening gel). Intrinsic whitening may take other forms, such as preventing untimely aging and making lifestyle adjustments like staying hydrated.
This is the process of cleaning stains off the enamel, the outer layer of the teeth. The stains, caused by drinking wine, coffee or tea, can be easily cleaned by a dental hygienist during a dental checkup or with whitening toothpaste.
Types of teeth whitening
Your options for teeth whitening include over-the-counter whitening kits sold by local drugstores and professional cleaning. Over-the-counter kits, such as teeth whitening strips and toothpastes, offer patients an easy way to whiten their teeth. The issue is that these products have bleaching agents that do not work effectively like professional teeth whitening kits and may even damage the teeth.
Professional teeth whitening can be an in-office or take-home treatment. For in-office procedures, the dentist will apply a whitening agent to your teeth, while professional home treatment entails the use of kits containing a bleaching agent and a whitening tray. Although in-office whitening is usually more effective, take-home kits are generally more convenient.
Suitable candidates for teeth whitening
Not every case of tooth stains or discoloration can be corrected with teeth whitening. Whitening is typically more useful for minor blemishes and may not make any difference if the discoloration is due to antibiotic use. Generally, teeth whitening works better on stains that are yellowish or brownish instead of grayish.
Cases of severe stains are better handled in the office rather than using home kits or over-the-counter products. Also, remember that teeth whitening is ineffective for cosmetic restorations such as crowns, veneers or prosthetic teeth.