Teeth Whitening -Do you wish your teeth were whiter?

Written by Dr Amrita Jain

October 5, 2020

What is teeth whitening?

Tooth whitening is a process to lighten the color of the teeth and remove staining. It is a really popular dental procedure since it promises a brighter smile and enhanced looks. The process is easy but it does have to be repeated from time to time. 

Why do your teeth appear yellow?

Enamel is the outermost covering of the teeth, while dentin is the underlying yellow layer. The thinner your enamel is, the more the yellow color of the dentin shows through. Hence, aging can cause discoloration due to the thinning of the enamel. The smoother your enamel is, the whiter it appears due to the reflection of light. The enamel thickness and smoothness depends on your genes. 

A thin layer forms on the enamel every day which absorbs stains. The enamel also has pores that hold stains. Common reasons of enamel staining are smoking and the consumption of coffee, tea, wine, and cola. Apart from these, poor oral hygiene can also be a reason for stained and yellowed teeth. 

What are teeth whitening procedures?

You can whiten your teeth at the dental office or at home. Dentists recommend whitening the teeth in the clinic to avoid any side effects. First, the dentist makes sure that all your cavities are treated. The dentist will recommend getting all other treatments done as well as a cleaning procedure before the whitening. The cleaning will get rid of all the food debris and deposits on your teeth which cause stains. 

Teeth whitening in a dental clinic

The most common type of whitening includes the direct application of a whitening gel onto the teeth. This gel contains some amount of hydrogen peroxide which is a powerful chemical. The dentist uses a special light or laser to allow the chemical to work faster. Hence, you should go for this treatment only with a registered dental practitioner. It takes 1 to 3 appointments of 30 to 90 minutes each. The number will depend on the level of discoloration, how your teeth respond as well as how bright you want your teeth to look. 

Teeth Whitening at home

To whiten the teeth at home, the dentist takes impressions of your teeth and prepares trays that fit you perfectly. At home, you fill the trays with whitening gel and wear them daily for several hours for 2 to 3 weeks. Over the counter whitening kits are also available for home use which can be ready-made trays or simple whitening strips to stick on to your teeth. Make sure to ask your dentist before using these products as well as to use them with caution as per the instructions. 

Do whitening toothpastes actually work?

Generally, all toothpastes contain mild abrasives which help to remove stains from the teeth. Whitening toothpastes also contain chemicals and polishing agents that reduce staining without any bleaching or whitening agent. Some of them do contain peroxides but they don’t work since they don’t stay on the teeth for long. 

Whitening toothpastes do not give results as expected when compared to the teeth whitening treatments performed by your dentist or whitening kits. Whitening toothpastes usually show mild results if used for 3-4 months.

What can you expect after the treatment?

You may experience sensitivity for a while after your whitening treatment, especially if you already have sensitive teeth. In some cases, your gums might get irritated due to the whitening gel, especially if you use it incorrectly at home. Immediate results can be seen after the treatment and your teeth appear whiter than before. 

Pregnant women and children should avoid this treatment altogether.

How long do teeth whitening effects last?

Whitening is a temporary solution to stains. It can last for 6 to 12 months if you avoid smoking and caffeinated beverages. If not, the effects last for less than a month. 

These are some precautions you can take once you whiten your teeth professionally

  • Try to avoid beverages and food that stains the teeth easily, such as coffee, tea, red wine, berries, and tomato sauce. 
  • If you are a smoker, avoid smoking altogether. Teeth tend to become discolored and yellowish with the use of tobacco
  • Use a straw when you drink a beverage to minimize the teeth from staining. 
  • Get teeth cleaning done every 6 months professionally by your dentist.

Last but not the least, talk to your dentist first before going for at-home treatment.

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Dr. Amrita Jain is a practicing dental surgeon since 4 years. She completed her B.D.S in 2016 and was has been a rank holder throughout her course. She suggests “Holistic dentistry is the best dentistry”. Her treatment line follows a conservative pattern which means saving a tooth is of utmost priority and preventing your teeth from getting decayed rather than curing it with a root canal treatment. She inculcates the same while consulting her patients. Apart from her interest in clinical practice, she has developed interest in research and writing over a period of time. She states “It is my clinical experience that motivates me to write and spread dental awareness”. Her articles are well researched with a combination of technical knowledge and clinical experience.
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