Should You Consider Tooth Whitening?

Should you have your teeth whitened?

Most of my patients tell me that they would like to have whiter teeth and a brighter smile. So let’s explore what options are available.

As a person ages, the teeth often become darker due to staining by foods (coffee, tea, or red wine), tobacco or bacterial pigments. Tetracycline antibiotics can also cause a gray staining of the teeth. Dental bleaching can help to lighten the enamel and reverse the staining of the enamel.

At-home tooth bleaching uses either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide gel applied to the teeth using thin mouth guard type trays. Over the counter whitening strips that go over the front teeth can also be used. The peroxide agents penetrate into the porosities in the enamel and oxidizes the stain deposits that build up on your teeth.

The strength of the peroxide and the length of time they are held against the teeth will determine how quickly the teeth are whitened. The effects of the bleaching can last for months, and but will be reversed by the same foods that caused the staining (coffee, tea and red wine). This means that periodic teeth whitening will be required in order to maintain that bright white smile.

The risk to the enamel from bleaching has been shown to be insignificant. Some temporary increase of tooth sensitivity or irritation of the gums may occur. The gum irritation is usually caused by the trays not fitting snuggly to the teeth. You should discuss bleaching with your dentist before starting.

So, if you have wished for a brighter smile, chat with your dentist about dental whitening and the choices available before deciding if it’s right for you.