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Teeth Whitening

Overview

As a person ages, mineral exposure causes the teeth to gradually darken. Over time, some food, drink, or tobacco products also create unattractive yellowish brown stains.  Less commonly, you may experience discoloration due to some medications or bacterial agents.

Dental professionals have developed several techniques for eliminating discoloration to give their patients brighter, more attractive smiles. These techniques include; chemical whitening (bleaching), microabrasion (mild acid whitening), abrasive tooth brightening and the latest technique, laser tooth whitening. 

Whitening procedures are not a solution for all discoloration (e.g. darkening caused by cavities or infection). Similarly, whitening does not work on all stains.  To obtain the best results, consult with your dentist to choose the best course of treatment for your situation.  Some cases that are not appropriate for whitening procedures can be effectively treated with restorative options that your dentist can discuss with you.

Take home whitening procedures can whiten your teeth about 4 to 6 shades on a standard scale showing the range of teeth color.  Laser whitening can whiten the teeth up to 8 shades, depending on the level of initial discoloration and your desired results.

Whitening Procedures

In-Office Chemical Whitening (Bleaching)
The most common form of whitening is chemical whitening (bleaching).  In this procedure, your dentist applies a gel to the teeth.  The teeth are then exposed to bright white light, (or to a laser in laser whitening procedures).  This causes a reaction that allows the gel to penetrate the enamel of the teeth and eliminate embedded stains.  Chemical bleaching is highly effective and can be performed in one or two office visits.

At-Home Chemical Whitening (Bleaching)
You may also choose to chemically whiten your teeth at home.  In this case, your dental professional will fit a tray to your bite, and provide you with a mild whitening gel.  Over a course of weeks or months, you regularly apply the gel to your teeth using the tray.  Your dentist may also recommend take-home whitening materials to maintain the results of office whitening.

This method is more gradual, and less noticeable to others.  However, some patients experience gum sensitivity or discomfort in response to the gel.

Abrasive Tooth Whitening
Abrasive tooth whitening is another means of whitening teeth, but acts only on the surface of the teeth rather than on the underlying enamel.  Whitening toothpastes employ this form of whitening.  They have slightly abrasive (rough) materials that can scrub off minor stains over time.

Mircoabrasion
Microabrasion is also a means of “scrubbing” off stains.  However, before the teeth are cleaned with abrasive paste, they are treated with a mild acid that makes the abrasion more effective. This technique is not as effective as bleaching, but effectively lightens many surface stains.

 

ASK THE DOCTOR

Elizabeth Polin, DDS

American Dental Arts

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