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What is Teeth Whitening?

Tooth whitening removes stains and discoloration while lightening one’s teeth. Whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures as it drastically improves the appearance of one’s teeth. Most dentists have this procedure readily available.

You must regularly receive a whitening treatment if you want to maintain your teeth’s appearance as it is not a one-time procedure.

What is it used for?

Enamel, the outer layer of each tooth, has dentin under it. The natural color of one’s teeth is a combination of the color of the dentin and the reflection of light off the enamel.

Genetics play a part in how thick and smooth the enamel is. Thin enamel allows the color of the dentin to shine through, whereas thicker enamel shields it. The smoothness of the coating affects how light reflects off the tooth, which in turn changes the color. Enamel also has pores that hold stains.

Common Reasons for Teeth to Appear Yellow or Stained

  • Frequent tobacco use
  • Consuming dark-colored liquids such as tea, coffee, soda/cola, and red wine
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Aging because the enamel gets thinner and the dentin under the enamel becomes darker

Intrinsic stains are stains inside the tooth and this does occur, shockly enough. This type of stain can be caused by exposure to too much fluoride as a young child, and exposure to tetracycline antibiotics.

If taken by a mother during their second or third trimester, tetracycline antibiotics may stain a child’s teeth. It may also stain a child’s teeth if they use this antibiotic at eight years old or younger since their teeth are still developing.

Physical trauma may also darken the color of a tooth.

Tooth whitening is most effective on stains on the surface of the tooth rather than intrinsic stains.

Types of Whitening Procedures

There are two types of procedures: vital whitening and non-vital whitening. Vital whitening is a procedure on teeth with live nerves, while non-vital whitening is a procedure on a tooth that does not have a live nerve such as one that undergone a root canal treatment.

Vital Whitening

One of the most common types of vital tooth whitening utilizes a gel administered directly to the surface of the tooth. The gel typically contains hydrogen peroxide.

Tooth whitening is available as an in-office procedure or usable at home. In-office treatments allow the dentist to use a more powerful whitening agent and a specialized laser. The light activates the gel, bleaching the teeth quickly.

In-office whitening visits take roughly 30 to 90 minutes. A complete treatment may need one to three appointments depending on the method used, the severity of the stains, and the desired brightness of the teeth.

If your teeth are severely discolored, your dentist may recommend continuing the whitening process at home for a few days or even weeks.

All stains respond differently to whitening treatments, and some stains may take longer to remove than others.

In-home whitening requires two custom mouthpieces for your upper and lower teeth. A snug fit assists the whitening gel in adhering to your teeth.

At home, the patient must fill both mouthpieces with the provided whitening gel. Wear the mouthpiece for as long as the dentist prescribes. Some people wear it for several hours a day for a week, while others wear it for a few weeks. It depends on the color the individual wants.

Whitening products are available for purchase over the counter; however, they are not as strong as products that dentists prescribe. Over-the-counter products may take longer to achieve the desired results. Some tubes of toothpaste contain whitening ingredients that remove stains.

Non-Vital Whitening

A tooth that has undergone root-canal treatment typically needs a non-vital whitening procedure as the stain is coming from inside of the tooth rather than the outside.

Non-vital whitening is when a dentist places a whitening agent inside of the tooth before putting a temporary filling on top of it. The agent is left inside the tooth for several days before being removed.

Depending on the original shade of the tooth, you may only need this whitening procedure once. Learn more about our specific whitening methods. You will also want to see our page on the safety of teeth whitening.