Teeth Whitening

The world is obsessed with having perfect bright white smiles. We see it everywhere: on TV, online, and even hear it over the radio. If we have a dull luster or color, we are immediately reminded that we are not the best version of ourselves and pressured to change our smiles to perfection, regardless of cost or comfortability. Trying to, not only get the best results, but also the most bang for your buck can leave you with hours of flipping through reviews and comparing products. Options like trays, gels, light treatments, in-office treatments and over the counter treatments can leave you feeling overwhelmed.  Currently, there are even chewing gums, mouth rinses, toothpastes and even lipsticks that claim to brighten your teeth.  It is important to understand the teeth whitening process and options that would best serve your specific needs before deciding on a product or procedure.

Before making any investments, check in with your dentist. Dentists can evaluate stains and let you know the best course of action for teeth whitening with your specific needs. Not all stains are the same and should not be treated equally. There are two types of staining: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic is tooth surface staining. This includes staining from food, tobacco, coffee, tea, red wine and sodas. These stains are usually removed by routine dental cleanings and low, medium, and high percentages of Hydrogen peroxide or Carbamide peroxide teeth whitening. Intrinsic staining is staining that goes deeper into the tooth. This is caused by natural aging, injury to tooth, certain medications, and medical conditions. Options for removing this type of staining would include in office dental procedures and high percentage bleaching. Some teeth whitening can fix some of this Intrinsic staining but will typically effect the optimal results depending on level of staining. “Yellow” teeth typically will respond better to whitening treatments than “gray” colored teeth. “Gray” colored teeth are usually intrinsic staining by aging and natural wear and tear on teeth. With some teeth, it will not matter how often you bleach your teeth, there will still be uneven colorations. Things such as demineralization (shows as white spotting on teeth), existing dental work and some intrinsic staining cannot be changed by whitening. If you have these issues, please consult a dentist to learn options of correcting the coloration issues. Existing dental work such as crowns, veneers, fillings cannot change colors. The best option is to redo this dental work and have the color of the material changed.

Long term teeth whitening can cause great discomfort in your teeth and on rare occasions cause tooth nerve damage.  Teeth whitening causes sensitivity most commonly known as “zings”. “Zings” are typically short bursts of sensitivity that can be uncomfortable. “Zings” can occur during a whitening treatment and after the treatment is completed. Whitening opens small pores or tubules in the teeth that allows the bleaching of the outer layers of teeth, enamel and dentin, to happen. The small pore openings allow temperatures to come closer to the interior of tooth where the nerve of tooth is located. This can make the tooth feel temperature changes drastically. Over time the pores shrink and feel less sensitivity and zings. Not all people will experience sensitivity or zings but it is still a common side effect of whitening you should be aware of. Sensitivity often occurs during the beginning of bleaching process.

Soft tissue irritation is common amongst people who whiten their teeth. Due to either ill-fitting bleaching trays or from direct contact with bleaching products your gum tissue can become temporarily sore, red and/or swollen. Gums that are exposed to whitening products can even turn white temporarily. Most over the counter teeth whitening products are not custom fitting trays and gel can easily ooze from intended whitening areas due to gaps to your gum tissue, tongue or cheeks. The best option for gels/tray whitening is a custom tray made specifically for your teeth. This can be made at a dental office. These custom trays will keep whitening gel in desired area and snuggly in place away from all soft tissues. Tooth and soft tissue irritation are usually temporary and diminish or stop after the initial treatment.  

Hydrogen peroxide is a main lightening ingredient in whitening products that can come in several different strengths or percentages. Carbamide peroxide is another main whitening ingredient you can find in whitening products. Both Hydrogen peroxide and Carbamide peroxide provide the same great whitening results. However, Hydrogen peroxide has shorter wear times per whitening session as it breaks down faster and works best within 30-60 minutes. Carbamide peroxide breaks down at a slower rate and will require more time sitting on teeth as it typically releases 50% within 2 hours of initial placement and can be active for another 6 hours. Carbamide is great for night time whiteners who will place trays with gel over teeth while sleeping.

3% – 44% are available in different products although most products come in a smaller percentage than 25%. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using 10% Hydrogen peroxide and 35% Carbamide peroxide when whitening. In some dental offices, you can find a whitening treatment that uses a LED light along with Hydrogen peroxide gel. The difference between using only gels and using gels with the LED light is that the light helps break down the peroxide for a fast result.

Zoom is a procedure done only at a dental office. 25% Hydrogen peroxide gel is applied to the teeth and the gel is activated by a LED light. This allows oxygen to enter the enamel and dentin, multiple layers of the outer tooth structure. Treatments typically take about an hour depending on your sensitivity level and may result in up to eight shades of improvement.  Zoom is definitely an investment but geared towards individuals who want drastic results fast. Zoom also has a take home kit with 22% Hydrogen peroxide gel to allow you to touch up your teeth as needed.

Whitening your teeth can have a great effect on your appearance but more importantly, it can improve your self-esteem and self-image. Investing not only in the health of your teeth but also the esthetics is beneficial for you overall.  If you decide whitening is right for you consult to your primary dentist and find the best product or procedure right for you!

-Brittany E, Dental Assistant

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