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Tooth Whitening Methods

What You Need to Know About Tooth Whitening

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Updated May 28, 2014

Tooth Whitening Methods
Photo © A.D.A.M.

With a variety of tooth whitening methods available, whitening your teeth has never been more accessible. Are you dreaming of a white smile? Before considering whitening your teeth, book an appointment for a check-up and cleaning with your dentist. Surface stains will need to be removed before whitening to achieve optimum results. Your dentist will then determine if you are a candidate for tooth whitening.

Are You a Candidate for Tooth Whitening?

Not everyone can use tooth whitening solution. Circumstances that may prevent the use of tooth whitening product are:
  • Teeth that have restorations , such as veneers or having been bonded with white fillings, cannot be whitened with hydrogen or carbamide peroxide. These materials do not whiten past the color they were originally made. The color of these types of restorations were determined by the surrounding teeth. If the surrounding teeth are whitened, the restorations will stand out and look artificial. Replacing old or discolored restorations will allow you to change their appearance.
  • Teeth that have internal staining, discoloration from developmental conditions or have been root canalled may not be affected by the typical whitening process. Internal tooth whitening or permanent restorations may be an option to consider.
  • Natural tooth colors that are brown or gray in hue may not produce desired results. Typically, teeth with a yellow hue will produce the best results.
  • Pregnant or nursing mothers should avoid whitening their teeth as there is not enough research to determine the safety of tooth whitening products during pregnancy or lactation.
  • People with hypersensitive teeth should avoid tooth whitening, because this process may enhance the level of sensitivity they experience.

How Are Teeth Whitened?

Enamel, the first layer of tooth surface, is actually semi-translucent, or clear. The layer underneath the enamel, known as dentin, is typically yellow, but may be gray, brown or black. This hue is what is seen penetrating through the enamel. In order to whiten the dentin, a peroxide solution is placed on the enamel. This process opens the pores of the enamel, allowing the solution to reach the layer of dentin. The solution will then begin to lighten the dentin, resulting in the appearance of whiter teeth.

Several brands of tooth-whitening products are on the market that all promise one thing -- noticeable results. Professional in-office whitening, professional take-home whitening and over-the-counter whitening products remain the most common ways to whiten your teeth.

It is important to have realistic expectations when evaluating your final results; it may take several treatments to achieve a whiter smile. Whitening results may not be permanent, as your teeth will naturally pick up stain from foods or beverages or from tobacco use. Remember to brush and floss daily, and visit your dentist for regular cleanings and examinations. Tooth whitening results will vary from person to person, so chose an option that will suit your specific need and budget.

Source:

British Dental Health Foundation. Tooth Whitening FAQ. Accessed May 25, 2009.

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