The color of your teeth either brings or fades the smile of your face. As we age, certain foods and drinks, as well as smoking, can cause discoloration affecting our once-gleaming grin. Then teeth whitening is the solution. Teeth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dentistry treatments offering a quick, non-invasive and affordable way to enhance a smile. In this article we break down everything related to teeth whitening, including what to do before teeth whitening, what causes staining,how to maintain the result, and their associated risks.
What is teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening involves ‘bleaching’ your teeth to make them lighter. It refers to restoring a tooth’s surface color by removing dirt and debris. This means any product that is used to clean the teeth (like a toothpaste) is considered a whitener.
What causes teeth to look yellow?
Multiple factors cause teeth to become dull and lose their bright, white sparkle.
Certain foods can stain your enamel, which is the outermost layer of your teeth. Additionally, plaque buildup on your teeth can cause them to look yellow.
This type of discoloration can usually be treated with regular cleaning and whitening remedies.
However, sometimes teeth look yellow because the hard enamel has eroded, revealing the dentin underneath. Dentin is a naturally yellow, bony tissue that lies underneath the enamel.
What to do before teeth whitening
Teeth whitening treatments are relatively delicate and here are few steps you should take before you whiten your teeth.
Schedule a Dental Check-Up First
If you want whiter teeth, the best place to start is with a healthy mouth. This means starting with a dental check-up to assess the state of your teeth and gums before beginning any whitening treatment. Undertaking any whitening procedure is not recommended without first consulting a dentist.
A dentist can evaluate your overall dental health and your unique needs to ensure the right whitening treatment is used. Since there are some stains that can’t be removed with any whitening product, it’s a good idea to get an opinion from your dentist before you move forward with the procedure.
Also any existing dental problems you have will need to be diagnosed and treated before you start the whitening process. Failure to do so may aggravate existing problems and cause you to experience pain or discomfort. An expert opinion and treatment will give you the best chance of achieving a beautiful white smile AND a healthy mouth.
Choose your whitening method
Once you’ve determined you are a good candidate for tooth whitening and have had any dental problems treated, you can go ahead and choose which whitening method is the best fit for your individual circumstances. This should be done in consultation with your dentist, as each procedure has its advantages and disadvantages. Procedures range from quick and effective in-chair treatments at the dental clinic, to at-home treatments you carry out yourself over the course of a few weeks, to whitening toothpastes. Which treatment you choose will depend on your budget, your timeframes and your goals.
Pre-Treatment before Teeth Cleaning
Before you start with any method of whitening treatment, make sure to get your teeth cleaned to greatly improve the results of your whitening treatment. You must receive a professional dental cleaning to remove plaque and hardened tartar from your teeth. We do this not only because plaque and tartar stain your teeth slightly, but also because you’ll get better results from your whitening treatment if your teeth are as clean as possible beforehand. When plaque or tartar is present on your teeth, the bleaching products used may not catch correctly and thus not have a maximum effect. A dental cleaning will remove tartar and other sediments that you can’t remove at home. Maintaining a good dental care routine in the weeks leading up to your treatment is also desirable.
Desensitize sensitive teeth
Temporary teeth and gum sensitivity is a fairly common side-effect of teeth whitening procedures. It won’t last long and is usually nothing to worry about – but you might like to consider the use of a desensitising toothpaste, particularly if you’re prone to sensitive teeth. Start using a desensitising toothpaste two weeks prior to teeth whitening. This will reduce any discomfort after the procedure by helping to block the transmission of pain signals from the tooth to the nerve.
Following these steps will ensure you get the best out of your procedure, and will enjoy your brighter, whiter smile for as long as possible. Remember to always consult your dentist before commencing any treatment
Use a Shade Guide
When it comes to teeth whitening, winging it is probably not a good idea. You should consider consulting with your dentist first, getting a teeth cleaning, using a desensitizing toothpaste if you have sensitivity, and finding out your goal shade. Check out a shade guide to compare the shades to your current shade. Find the shade that most closely matches your shade so you have a base shade and a goal shade. You can use a shade guide to compare your teeth after a whitening treatment and see if you achieved your desired results. Your dentist can help you determine how much lighter you should go for a natural and bright smile.
Caring for Your Revitalized Smile
One of the most common side effects of in-office teeth whitening is sensitive teeth. This is a short-term side effect that should go away in a few days. In the meantime, you can use a toothpaste that’s designed to help reduce tooth sensitivity.
In addition, teeth whitening only removes existing stains from your teeth; it doesn’t protect against future stains. Thankfully, there are steps you can follow to protect your teeth from future staining and ensure they stay white for as long as possible. Be very careful about the food you eat for the first 48 hours after your treatment because your teeth will be more vulnerable to staining than usual. Avoid acidic or colorful foods in general, sticking instead to light-colored fruits and vegetables, high-calcium foods like plain white yogurt, and chicken.
Once the first 48 hours have passed, you can go back to eating colorful foods, but you should still do your best to limit foods and drinks that are known to stain teeth. This includes drinks like coffee, wine, and sodas, as well as foods like tomato sauce, blueberries, and balsamic vinegar, though you don’t have to cut these foods and drinks out completely. One way to reduce staining while still enjoying a good, dark-colored drink is to use a straw because it limits the contact the liquid has with your teeth. Brushing your teeth with whitening toothpaste and sticking to a great oral hygiene routine can also help you fight off surface stains and keep your teeth white. This means you should brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss and use mouthwash at least once a day, and visit Dr. Allred for a regular dental checkup every six months.
Is teeth whitening permanent?
Teeth whitening isn’t permanent. It can last from a few months to up to 3 years – it varies from person to person.
The whitening effect won’t last as long if you smoke or drink red wine, tea or coffee, which can all stain your teeth.
Maintaining Your Results
To extend the longevity of newly whitened teeth, dentists are likely to recommend:
- At-home follow-up or maintenance whitening – implemented immediately or performed as infrequently as once a year.
- Avoiding dark-colored foods and beverages for at least a week after whitening.
- Whenever possible, sipping dark-colored beverages with a straw.
- Practicing excellent oral hygiene – brushing and flossing after meals and at bedtime.
Teeth whitening treatments are considered to be safe when procedures are followed as directed. However, there are certain risks associated with bleaching that you should be aware of:
- Sensitivity: Bleaching can cause a temporary increase in sensitivity to temperature, pressure and touch. This is likeliest to occur during in-office whitening, where higher-concentration bleach is used. Some individuals experience spontaneous shooting pains (“zingers”) down the middle of their front teeth. Individuals at greatest risk for whitening sensitivity are those with gum recession, significant cracks in their teeth or leakage resulting from faulty restorations. It has also been reported that redheads, including those with no other risk factors, are at particular risk for tooth sensitivity and zingers. Whitening sensitivity lasts no longer than a day or two, but in some cases may persist up to a month. Some dentists recommend a toothpaste containing potassium nitrate for sensitive teeth.
- Gum irritation: Over half of those who use peroxide whiteners experience some degree of gum irritation resulting from the bleach concentration or from contact with the trays. Such irritation typically lasts up to several days, dissipating after bleaching has stopped or the peroxide concentration lowered.
- Technicolor teeth: Restorations such as bonding, dental crowns or veneers are not affected by bleach and therefore maintain their default color while the surrounding teeth are whitened. This results in what is frequently called “technicolor teeth.”
How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost?
The cost of teeth whitening can vary quite significantly from product to product, procedure to procedure.
Professional, in-office teeth whitening is the most expensive option with a national average of $650 per visit (pricing can vary between $500 to $1,000). However it does have the benefit of being performed by an experienced dental professional, helping to ensure that you get the sort of results you’re looking for.
At the other end of the cost spectrum are over-the-counter strips and trays that you can buy at your local pharmacy or grocery store. These products can range from $20 to $100, making them an attractive option for those looking for a bit of smile enhancement without the higher cost of professionally administered whitening. However, it’s important to keep in mind that results can vary drastically when using these cheaper, low-concentration peroxide whiteners.
If you’re looking for a middle-ground between professional whitening and over-the-counter products, you might be a good candidate for professionally dispensed take-home kits. Prescribed by a dentist, these kits range in cost from $100 to $400, and can potentially deliver results similar to those you’d get in-office at the hands of a dentist.
Keep in mind that whitening results are not permanent, meaning that if you want to maintain your whitened smile, you’ll need to continue getting treatments as the effects wane