Why are my teeth stained in the first place?
The outer part of a tooth is a very strong, but mostly translucent, thin layer called enamel. Underneath the tooth enamel is dentin, a slightly softer substance that makes up most of the tooth and is slightly yellow in color. The yellow of the dentin comes through when enamel has been eroded or teeth have not been cleaned. Staining and discoloration can occur on the enamel and the dentin of your teeth.
Our teeth naturally yellow and experience discoloration as we age. Enamel becomes thinner from wear-and-tear and the dentin shows through more. If teeth experience chips or injuries throughout the years, they can also undergo discoloration.
Ultimately, there are two types of staining that can occur with your teeth, and determining which type of stains you have are key to gaining a whiter smile.
Intrinsic staining occurs from changes on the inside of the tooth.
Your teeth can become discolored by changes inside the tooth such as damage to a nerve canal or blood vessel. The inner structure, or the dentin of the tooth, darkens and has a more yellow tint. Sometimes, materials used for dental fillings or traumatic tooth injuries also can alter tooth color.
How do my teeth get intrinsic staining?
- Excess fluoride exposure during early childhood
- Tetracycline antibiotics consumption during the second half of pregnancy or by children 8 years old or younger
- Childhood tooth trauma that interferes with a developing permanent tooth
Extrinsic staining happens as the outside of your teeth become stained from food, drinks, or smoking.
Eating certain foods can cause a layer called the “pellicle” to form on top of the enamel. Pellicle, or the stain, can be scraped away at by a dentist or by a toothbrush. However, because the enamel is porous, the stain can seep into the dentin if pellicle remains sitting on top of the tooth for too long. Coffee, wine, tea, soft drinks and a number of other food and drinks can stain teeth. Smoking and tobacco products also cause extrinsic stains.
If your saliva flow is lower than normal, you are more susceptible to extrinsic staining. Saliva helps break down food debris, and if saliva flow is low, food particles remain in the mouth longer and have more time to increase potential teeth staining.
Why should I go to the dentist and not just use an over-the-counter product?
It is vital to the success of your whitening treatment that you first understand whether the stains and discoloration are intrinsic or extrinsic. Whitening treatments, including gels, are not going to whiten intrinsic stains. Only a dental professional can treat an intrinsically discolored tooth.
A professional diagnosis can ultimately determine how your teeth were stained, whether your teeth are healthy enough to for treatment to be effective and pain free, and provide you with a proper treatment plan to get a whiter smile.
The beauty of our whitening gel treatment is that you have the ease of an at-home process, with the supervision and expertise of Your Community Dental’s professionals every step of the way. One consultation can be the difference between unnecessary expenses and disappointment from experimenting with over-the-counter products or treatments unsuitable for your teeth.
Can whitening be done at any age?
Children’s teeth are very susceptible to damage from whitening gels and products. Whitening can damage the live tissue inside the teeth and overexposure may cause irreversible tooth damage. There is a concern about children accidentally consuming the whitening gel.
Once all baby teeth have been lost and permanent teeth have all erupted, you can begin to talk about whitening. Perhaps a teen who has undergone years of orthodontic treatment wants that hard-won smile to be a little brighter. It takes about two years the last permanent tooth has erupted for enamel to calcify and fully protect the teeth. If whitening gel is applied before the enamel is calcified, teeth can become very sensitive as the pulp — the deepest living part of the tooth — is exposed to the bleaching chemicals.
- All baby teeth have been lost (typically between 12-14 years of age)
- All adult teeth have come in and enamel has calcified
- All orthodontic treatment is complete
- All permanent teeth, gums, and other oral tissues are healthy enough for whitening treatment
Remember that aggressive whitening treatment can damage live tissue within the teeth, and children may experience more sensitivity than adults post-treatment. The treatment also requires that they whiten 15 minutes a day for one week, and then wait a month before whitening again, which it may be more of a commitment than a child wants to make.
Can I whiten crowns, veneers, or dentures?
Whitening gel will only work on natural teeth, and does not have any effect, positive or negative, on porcelain surfaces. Crowns may need to be replaced to match the color of otherwise whitened teeth, and porcelain veneers, when placed, can be color matched to your teeth’s unique color.
Will whitening last forever?
The color change from a whitening product is a permanent process. However, if you continue to do things that will stain your teeth — drinking red wine, coffee, smoking, etc — you can re-stain your teeth. Aging also will continue and once again yellow your teeth.
You can also aid in maintaining the whitening treatment by brushing your teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, cutting down on sugary and stain-causing food and drink, and of course, visiting your dental team as often as recommended. Touch-ups are necessary to maintain a pearly, white smile.
Teeth whitening can brighten your smile in very little time. Whitening lightens your natural teeth and helps remove stains and discoloration.
At Your Community Dental, we use Opalescence tooth whitening gel. Opalescence tooth whitening gel is available in three different flavors. The gel can be worn during the day for as little as 30 minutes or overnight. Opalescence gel is specially formulated to prevent dehydration and shade relapse.
Once you make the decision to pursue whitening, our dental professionals will take an impression of your teeth that will be used to make a specialized tray that will hold the whitening gel and maintain optimal contact with your teeth. Our team will show you how to apply the Opalescence whitening gel into your tray, which fits like a customized mouth guard. You will continue treatment at home over a two- to four-week period.
How does the gel work?
Opalescence gel acts as a bleach to rid your teeth of stains and discoloration on a level deeper than toothpastes or mouthwashes can provide. Deep stains within a tooth’s dentin (a layer underneath the enamel) cause most discoloration. Teeth whitening agents likek Opalescence used two types of bleaches: Hydrogen Peroxide and Carbamide Peroxide. These bleaches penetrate the enamel and break down the stains. The chemical reaction produces tiny oxygen molecules that spread and whiten the teeth.
Gels with hydrogen peroxide only need to be worn for 30-60 minutes per day, whereas carbamide peroxide gels stay active for up to 6 hours. In recent studies, both bleaching agents achieve similar results with no difference in sensitivity or rebounding.
Both bleaches whiten teeth and have same side effects, notably tooth sensitivity. Sensitivity typically temporary, and should disappear within a few days of the treatment.
Is whitening for me?
Your smile says so much about you. Investing in your teeth to give you the smile you want and the smile you deserve is a choice only you can make. Teeth whitening has become very popular, and many products are sold over the counter direct to consumers. Such products may not be held to rigorous safety standards, and we don’t recommend do-it-yourself dentistry! Whatever your goal is for your smile, talk to your dentist about it and before you start any kind of treatment process.
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