Natural teeth’s color is created by the reflection of light off the enamel, combined with the color of dentin under it. Most of us start out with white teeth due to the porcelain-like outer enamel surface. However, the enamel surface contains pores that can gradually fill up with stains.
While aging makes teeth appear darker as the enamel gets thinner, the most common reasons for teeth to get yellow or stained are:
- Smoking habits: Smoking leaves brownish deposits which slowly soak into the tooth structure and causes intrinsic discoloration.
- Drinking habits: Excessive consumption of dark-colored liquids such as coffee, cola, tea and red wine
- Exposure to too much fluoride as a child while the teeth are developing
- Tetracycline antibiotics taken by the mother during the second half of pregnancy
- Trauma can produce sizable cracks in the teeth, which tend to collect stains.
Teeth Whitening options
In-Office Teeth Whitening
Significant color change in a short time period is the major advantage of in-office whitening. This protocol involves the controlled use of a relatively high concentration of peroxide gel that is applied on to the teeth by the dentist after the gums have been protected with a paint-on rubber dam. The peroxide remains on the teeth for fifteen to twenty minute intervals that eventually add up to an hour of treatment time. Teeth with stubborn staining may be advised to return for an additional session.
Professionally dispensed Home Teeth Whitening
Home-whitening kits incorporate an easy-to-use lower-concentration peroxide gel that is administered thirty minutes a day for approximately two to three weeks. The gel is applied to the teeth using custom-made whitening trays that resemble mouth guards. Take-home whitening kits can produce the best results over the long haul.
Maintaining Teeth Whitening Results
To maintain your teeth whitening results, dentists are likely to recommend:
- At-home follow-up kit – implemented immediately or performed as frequently as once in six months.
- Avoiding dark-colored foods and beverages for at least a week following whitening.
- Sipping dark-colored beverages with a straw whenever possible.
- If tooth-colored fillings and porcelain veneers are part of your treatment plan, they should not be placed until a minimum of two weeks following whitening to ensure proper shade matching.
- Teeth whitening may cause a temporary increase in sensitivity to temperature, pressure and touch. This is likelier to occur during in-office whitening and in individuals with gum recession and significant cracks on their teeth. Whitening sensitivity usually does not last longer than a day or two.
- Teeth whitening results are subjective, varying considerably from person to person. Before you decide on any whitening treatment, ask your dentist for a realistic idea of the results you are likely to achieve and how long it should take to achieve them.