Teeth whitening is the process of restoring the teeth to their natural color and removing stains built up over years of drinking sodas and coffee, smoking cigarettes or performing poor oral hygiene.
Technically, normal toothpaste acts to whiten your teeth as well, but toothpaste is unable to remove the stains that set into the enamel.
Advanced teeth whitening procedures remove these stains and restores a more natural looking white color.
Why Do Teeth Get Discolored?
Teeth are actually yellow at their core. The white appearance of teeth comes from the natural protective coating, or enamel.
Enamel is there to protect the teeth from the constant use and abuse they are put through. As the years wear on, the enamel wears down, begins to turn transparent, and allows the yellow color of the tooth’s core material to show.
Enamel can also become cracked during routine chewing. These microscopic cracks allow spaces where stains and debris can accrue, creating a dull color.
How Does Teeth Whitening Work?
Teeth whitening removes the stains and debris that have accumulated in the gaps and crevices in the white enamel.
There are several options for the process. You can have a dentist do it in the office, get a kit from the dentist to do at home, or simply buy an over-the-counter kit for use at home.
Each one yields very different results. With any of the options available, there is no real recovery time beyond drinking some water to clear the gel taste from your mouth.
Professional Teeth Whitening: This yields the fastest and most effective results, although it is also the most expensive.
A high-concentration peroxide gel will be applied to the teeth in intervals of fifteen to twenty minutes, with the entire procedure taking up to an hour. People with particularly stubborn stains may have to have the process repeated.
Professional Take-Home Whitening Kits: These are supplied by the dentist, contain the highest quality ingredients, and are also highly effective.
Many dentists find that the long-term results from this are the best. The peroxide gel is a lower-concentration, and can be left on the teeth for longer periods of time.
Custom-made bleaching trays are used to apply the gel to the teeth.
Over-the-Counter Whitening Systems: These are the least expensive and the most convenient to obtain.
The trays used are one-size-fits-all, and the bleaching gel is the lowest concentration of all the options.
Because the trays are not custom fitted to the patient, many people find that only the front teeth are whitened, rather than the entire smile.
What are the Benefits of Teeth Whitening?
When your teeth are whiter, you naturally feel better about your smile. Rather than trying to hide stained and yellowed teeth, you will be free to laugh and grin.
It seems simple, but even one or two shades lighter and people find that not only does their self-esteem improves, so does their mood and general attitude.
What are the Risks of Teeth Whitening?
Some people have found that whitening increased the overall sensitivity of their teeth to pressure, touch and temperature.
It is most common with in-office whitening procedures, because of the higher concentration of the bleach. Some people also find that they have shooting pains in their front teeth.
People with receding gums, redheads, and people with larger cracks in the enamel are at a higher risk for developing this sensitivity.
Fortunately, it fades within a few days, with the worst cases lasting about a month.
Gum irritation can also develop due to the chemicals used. This irritation typically lasts a few days and will fade on its own.
Artificial teeth and veneers are not affected by the chemicals and will retain their normal color. This can result in teeth that are a different color throughout the mouth, a condition known as “Technicolor teeth.”
What Does Teeth Whitening Cost?
The cost for professional, in-office teeth whitening is on average around $600-$700 per visit.
Professional take-home kits provided by your dentist tend to run between $150 and $400, and less-potent over-the-counter teeth whitening packages typically run from about $25 to over $100.