Whitening is purely for looks and doesn’t affect your bite.
Babies and children really do have pearly whites, but as people age, their teeth can become stained or yellowed. Coffee, tea, and red wine are particularly likely to cause severe stains, as they contain chemical compounds called chromogens that leave pigments in the tooth enamel.
Enamel tends to wear down and become thinner with age, which allows the yellowish underlayer, or dentin, to show through. Tobacco, whether smoked or chewed, leaves yellow or brownish stains on the teeth. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and some medications may also stain the teeth.
How do dentists whiten teeth?
Chair-side whitening is much more effective as your dentist can use a stronger concentration of the bleaching agent, though some teeth whitening products are available over-the-counter. At-home products contain hydrogen peroxide gels or strip.
Carbamide peroxide is used in chair-side whitening. We’ll use a dental dam to protect your gums from the bleaching agent, which we brush onto all surfaces of your teeth.
A special light or laser treatment can increase the bleaching effect. In many cases, you only need a single treatment, but additional treatments are possible. A treatment usually takes about 45 minutes and does not cause discomfort.
What are the potential problems or side effects?
If your enamel is thin enough to allow the whitening product to reach the dentin layer, you may experience sensitivity. This sensitivity should be temporary. At-home whiteners can damage the tooth enamel or gums if you use it too frequently.
Yellowed teeth usually respond well to bleaching products, but if your teeth have a grayish tone, bleaching will probably be less successful. Deep stains from medications or injuries may not respond to bleaching, and teeth with a brownish discoloration may not bleach successfully.
Bleaching can’t be used for crowns or veneers, only on natural teeth.