Get whiter teeth at our office in Stockton CA
What is Teeth Whitening?
Teeth Whitening or bleaching products brighten teeth that have been stained or darkened by food, beverages, tobacco, age or injury. There are a variety of dentist prescribed and over the counter whitening products to reduce or eliminate such stains.
Bleaching should be a decision you make for you and not for your dentist or health professional. The saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is true. If you are happy with the color of your teeth, then nothing more needs to be done. If you feel that you would like brighter, whiter teeth then bleaching can be very effective.
Commom Causes of Stained Teeth
The following have been found to have a direct impact on stained and discolored teeth:
- Pigmented foods
These are otherwise known as extrinsic stains. There are stains that originate from the inside of the tooth, or intrinsic stains. One common example are stains caused from taking the antibiotic tetracycline.
Am I good candidate for Teeth Whitening?
One must first look at the existing fillings, crowns and restorations. If a patient has minimal dental work in his/her mouth, then bleaching is easy. If a person has dark stained fillings (older tooth colored fillings that had a chemical, camphorquinone, which turned dark with time) then bleaching can be done but the fillings will not bleach. These fillings will need to be changed with newer fillings, composite resins, which will be more color stable and not have the dramatic change in color over time.
If one has many caps or crowns on the teeth, then it must be determined if bleaching will enhance these crowns or cause them to be darker and stand out. If bleaching is done, this might require changing the crowns to match the bleached teeth. Making sure this is in your budget before you start is a good idea.
To answer this question, a consultation and a complete dental exam with x-rays and possibly photos is the best way to determine if teeth whitening is right for you. This way, if indicated, a customized whitening program can be tailored for you.
Benefits of Teeth Bleaching
- Tooth bleaching is a very effective and non-invasive way to make your smile brighter.
- Increases Self-esteem. When your teeth are clean and white, one often will smile more.
Teeth stain over time and tooth bleaching is one way to brighten the teeth so that more aggressive dental treatment is not necessary. Also, a patient may have a crown or filling that was done years ago that now seems too bright! One could replace the crown to match the darkened teeth or for a less expensive option, you could bleach the adjacent teeth; thus getting closer to their original color and the bright crown may blend perfectly now.
Teeth whitening also has the potential in reflectling a positive and happy image to others. Our motto is: bleaching is for you, not for us! If it is something that is right for you, we can help you chose the best method for you to whiten your teeth and smile.
Disadvantages of Teeth Whitening
Everyone’s teeth are different. Some people’s teeth are naturally more sensitive. For some, teeth whitening or bleaching can make teeth temporarily sensitive. For this reason, teeth whitening under the supervision of a dentist is most ideal because the process can be personalized to be as comfortable as possible and the patient has the best chance of accomplishing his or her goals. There do not appear to be any ill long term effects with teeth whitening with custom trays. Some patients will have increased sensitivity with in office bleaching that uses a stronger concentration of bleach gel and light which produces heat.
Teeth Whitening Before and After
What materials or solutions are used for teeth bleaching?
The two most commonly used solutions used both professionally and over the counter for teeth whitening are carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide. Both whiten by the same mechanism. The solution is placed on the enamel and the stains are gently lifted out from the pores of the enamel. Both solutions break down into H20 (water) and O2 (oxygen).
In-Office Teeth Whitening Procedure
The “gold standard” for teeth whitening is wearing custom fitting bleaching trays made by the dentist filled with a bleaching gel of either hydrogen peroxide of carbamide peroxide. The concentration of the bleaching gel and the duration of time the trays are worn would be determined by the dentist individually for each patient.
Advantages of In-office Teeth Whitening
There are many advantages to doing teeth whitening under the supervision of a dentist or at least consulting with your dentist prior to bleaching:
- The dentist can assess for cavities, enamel erosion, or receded gums. All of these could be contraindications to bleaching or at least need to be addressed in association with the bleaching procedure.
- The dentist can provide a customized bleaching plan that optimizes how fast the process is accomplished as well as making the procedure as comfortable as possible.
- In working with the dentist, targeted bleaching can be done to achieve a more uniform result.
- An overall smile plan. The dentist can help the patient come up with an overall plan that if necessary can combine bleaching, teeth bonding, orthodontics, crowns, veneers, or whatever is indicated to help the patient achieve the smile he or she desires.
Over the counter Teeth Whitening Options
- Whitening toothpastes: Tooth whitening toothpastes whiten in two ways. One way is that they remove surface stains. Secondly, they can slightly remove stains in the enamel with small amounts of hydrogen peroxide. Some whitening toothpastes use strong abrasives that can damage the enamel. Also, the overall whitening effects of these toothpastes by themselves are minimal. These products are best used for maintenance after teeth bleaching.
- Whitening strips: Whitening strips are plastic strips that form over the teeth which have carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide in them. So they use the same active ingredients as whitening through the dental office. It is just a different vehicle to get the material on the teeth. Some patients have reported that the strips slide around, turn their fingertips temporarily white (from the hydrogen peroxide) or that the strips don’t cover all of the teeth that they wish to bleach. Many consumers do well with this technique knowing that they will most likely need to buy multiple boxes of strips to achieve their goals.
- Commercially available bleach trays: These use the same type of materials used in the dental office however the trays are “one size fits all” and must be boiled and formed to the teeth. This typically results in an ill-fitting tray which does not keep the bleach material on the teeth. This can result in gum irritation.
- Bleaching trays made at kiosks at the mall: A number of non-dental entities such as tanning salons, beauty parlors have begun making bleaching trays. The materials being used are the same. However the supervision by qualified dental professionals is generally lacking.
- Whitening pens: There are now portable whitening pens for whitening “on the go”. They also use a hydrogen peroxide material. These seem like a nice adjunct to traditional whitening or for touch up whitening but would be difficult to attain whitening goals using this technique solely.
Tray Teeth Whitening: How long does it take?
In general bleaching will take anywhere from a couple weeks to a few months depending on all of the factors below.The amount of time that it takes to accomplish a patient’s whitening goals can vary widely. The following factors can have an impact on the overall duration of treatment:
- Age of the patient
- The degree of staining of the teeth
- How white they would like their teeth
Bleaching is a cumulative process. A person can whiten one day a month or every day. Also the concentration of the material as well as how long the patient decides to wear the trays per session will affect the treatment time.
Trays are worn for approximately two hours a day or every other day. The effective time of the material is two hours but it can be worn for less or more time. Some patients will wear the trays at night-time. Some patients have more sensitive teeth which will determine the strength of the whitening gel used as well how long and how often they whiten. Night-time use is not recommended if one experiences increased sensitivity with bleaching.
How soon after Bleaching can I brush my teeth?
Bleaching can slightly soften the enamel for the first 30 minutes after bleaching. It would be recommended to wipe the bleach material off of the teeth and wait to brush and floss after 30 minutes have passed from the end of bleaching.
Do Teeth Whitening Results Last?
It takes a long time for stains to build up on and in our teeth. It would take a long time (several years) for the teeth to return to the shade they were prior to bleaching. However, depending upon the amount of high pigment foods and beverages one consumes, the bright shade accomplished through bleaching may fade a bit over several months or a couple of years.
This is why patients generally keep a small amount of bleaching gel in their refrigerator for touch-up or maintenance bleaching. Depending on how white the patient wishes to keep the teeth, patients may do touch-up whitening as needed. This may be once or twice a year, or as frequent as once a month.
How to store Teeth Bleaching Materials
The bleach materials should be kept away from heat and ideally in the refrigerator until use is needed. Bleach materials can last two to four times longer by being kept in a cold environment like a refrigerator.
Does “Turbo Bleaching” or “Laser Bleaching” work?
Some years ago, various “fast” bleaching techniques were popular. Most of these techniques, performed in dental offices, used a special light, a laser or some other heat source in combination with a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to whiten teeth faster. Studies have been done that show that a majority of the “fast” whitening that was happening was due to dehydration of the teeth from the light source. Once the teeth became rehydrated, they returned to virtually the same color as they started at, (unless the patient was also using at home bleach trays to maintain the lighter shade.) This coupled by the fact that it remains unknown what the long term effects of these types of lights could have on the teeth is why this technique is not used much anymore.
Will existing fillings, crowns or porcelain veneers whiten with teeth bleaching?
Existing tooth-colored fillings, porcelain crowns and veneers do not whiten with teeth whitening procedures. So if a patient wants to lighten their whole smile, bleaching may be done first, then bonding, crowns or veneers will be done/redone to match the new color of the teeth and create a more harmonious smile.
Does Teeth bleaching work on both dark root and tooth?
If the tooth does not have a root canal problem, then the tooth can be treated with regular bleaching. However, teeth bleaching works best on the enamel and as the enamel gets thinner as it approaches the root, the natural pigment of the root structure will show through. The root structure does not whiten as effectively as the enamel so towards the root, the teeth may have a darker hue. If the patient desires, sometimes dental bonding can be done to cover the root and blend the color with the lightened enamel.
I have one tooth that seems much darker than the rest. Why is that?
A tooth that is drastically darker than the rest is typically because the tooth has either had a root canal or needs to have a root canal. When the nerve a tooth dies, often times the tooth will darken. If this is the case, the tooth would need a root canal. If one has already been completed, a procedure called internal bleaching can be performed where the tooth is lightened from the inside out. In addition, bonding or a crown may be indicated to protect the tooth. This will allow the tooth’s color to blend with the rest of the smile.
Are there any types of stains that cannot be treated by bleaching?
Bleaching generally works best on stains that effect the color of the teeth from the outside. This examples include pigmented foods, tobacco, wine, coffee and tea: otherwise known as extrinsic stains. Bleaching does not work very well on stains that originate from the inside of the tooth. For example stains caused from taking the antibiotic tetracycline otherwise known as intrinsic stains. Usually these types of stains would require bonding, veneers or crowns to correct.
Also, the color of the stains matter. Yellow, brown and orange stains tend to respond to bleaching better than with blue or grey stained teeth. These do not respond as well and may take considerably longer to bleach.
Is bleaching harmful to my teeth?
Generally 10% cabamide peroxide in custom made trays has been shown safe and effective to bleach teeth. In such cases, these patients have no major restorations or crowns. Higher concentrations of bleach gel may have a potential for weakening enamel or damaging the nerve of the tooth.
Does my insurance pay for bleaching?
Most insurance companies consider bleaching cosmetic; thus the bleaching is mostly not covered.