Having whiter, brighter teeth doesn’t just make us look more attractive — it makes us feel more attractive too. In fact, having your teeth whitened is a great way to feel more self-confident at work and in social situations, as well. And the best part is, you can get that gorgeous, movie-star smile with just one office visit. Here’s how professional teeth whitening works — and why it’s better than drugstore kits and other “DIY” options.
First things first: Why are my teeth yellow and dingy?
Teeth can start to look dingy, gray and unattractive for lots of reasons. Pigments or colors in foods and drinks are among the most common causes of tooth discoloration for most people. Some foods and beverages, like dark-colored berries, coffee, tea and red wine can cause teeth to look dingy, especially if you consume them on a regular basis. The same is true for deeply-pigmented spices like turmeric. Natural and artificial food colorings are also common culprits. And of course, any type of tobacco product, whether you smoke it or chew it, is a prime cause of yellow and brown stains on teeth. All these products contain pigments that can penetrate the outer layers of your tooth enamel, and once they penetrate, they’re pretty much impossible to get rid of with just brushing alone.
Other foods and drinks contribute to tooth discoloration in other ways. Citrus fruits, energy drinks, sodas and tomato products all contain high levels of acids. Even though some of these foods and drinks are healthy (like citrus fruits and tomato juice), the acids they contain wind up softening the tooth’s protective enamel coating temporarily. While the enamel is soft, it’s a lot easier for stains to penetrate, which means the likelihood of developing superficial discoloration is a lot greater.
The next major contributor to stained teeth is poor oral hygiene. Even if you think you’ve got a good brushing routine, you might still not be getting to all the areas of your teeth, like the crevices between teeth or the area along the gums. That’s why stains and yellowing often seem concentrated in these areas. When you’re not getting into these hard-to-reach places, layers of pigments build up, causing dark shadows that can wind up making your teeth, your smile and you to look a lot older.
These factors — foods and beverages, tobacco products, and poor oral hygiene — all cause superficial stains, discoloration that occurs in the outer layers of the tooth. Less commonly, you might have discoloration in the interior part of your tooth. That type of discoloration is caused by things like long-term use of antibiotics or other medicines, certain metabolic diseases and damage to the interior part of the tooth. Having a root canal or damaging the tooth’s pulp or root can also cause deep discoloration in the center part of the tooth. In these rarer instances, professional teeth whitening probably won’t be enough to give you the results you want. Instead, you’ll need to consider another option, like a veneer or a crown. Most discoloration is in the superficial layers, which means all you’ll need is a professional whitening treatment to look and feel your best.
Professional Teeth Whitening: What to Expect
Today, there are lots of over-the-counter options for stained teeth. It’s tempting to think that all you need to do to rejuvenate your smile is to add a whitening toothpaste to your oral hygiene routine. But the fact is, while a whitening paste can add a little “shine” to your smile, it can’t give you the white, bright results of a professional whitening treatment — even if you use the paste on a regular basis for weeks or months at a time. That doesn’t mean whitening toothpastes don’t have their uses. In fact, what a whitening toothpaste can do is help prolong the results of your in-office whitening treatment so you can enjoy your beautiful smile for as long as possible.
So what happens during an in-office teeth whitening treatment? And is it safe for your teeth? Professional teeth whitening typically begins with an examination of your teeth to look for any tiny defects that might interfere with your results. For instance, sometimes teeth develop very tiny cracks or fissures that you might not even be able to see. These tiny cracks can increase sensitivity during your teeth whitening treatment, so it’s a good idea to have them “fixed” first. It’s also usually a good idea to have your teeth cleaned first to get rid of plaque and tartar that can make it harder for the whitening solution to penetrate your teeth. When your teeth are perfectly clean prior to whitening, you can enjoy more consistent results that look more natural and last longer.
Once your teeth are prepared for whitening, the next step is to protect your gums. First, we’ll put a special guard in place to hold your lips back and fully expose your visible teeth. This protects your lips while also making it easier to apply the whitening agent. Then a rubber guard or protective gel will be placed over your gums to prevent irritation and reduce the risk of sensitivity.
Next, we’ll carefully apply the whitening gel to your tooth surfaces, taking care to cover all the visible surfaces evenly. Most whitening treatments take about an hour, and during your treatment, the gel may be reapplied once or twice for optimal penetration and coverage. Sometimes, a light will be used to improve penetration of the whitening agent. After your treatment is complete, we’ll remove the guard and gently wipe away the whitening agent. Afterward, no special treatment or “resting time” is required; you can flash your smile and enjoy your picture-perfect smile right away.
As for the second question, yes — professional teeth whitening is absolutely safe for your teeth. Our office uses the most advanced agents and techniques to provide optimal whitening and brightening without harming your tooth’s enamel. You might have some minor sensitivity during or right after your whitening treatment, but those effects will resolve soon afterward.
Can’t I just use an over-the-counter bleaching kit?
Sure, but you won’t get nearly the same results. In-office whitening agents are designed to be used by dentists, which means they provide far superior results to over-the-counter bleaching kits. Plus, at-home bleaching kits won’t provide the same consistent results as an in-office treatment that’s overseen by a dental professional. Most drugstore teeth bleaching kits need to be used for days at a time, and most require at least a couple of weeks to see the final results. That means you need to set aside some time from your daily routine to apply the bleach and leave it in place. Using the bleaching agent for days on end also means you’re more likely to experience sensitive teeth — and to experience sensitivity for a longer period of time. Plus, since you don’t have your teeth examined and cleaned prior to using an at-home kit, you can still be left with areas of yellowing and discoloration.
With professional teeth whitening treatment, you get consistent, long-lasting results that last for up to a year — even longer with touch-up treatments. The best part is, it only takes about an hour to get those results — and you don’t have to mess with tapes or gels at home, day in and day out. In-office treatments can also be customized for your teeth and for the amount of whitening you’re looking for — important bonuses you won’t get with an over-the-counter teeth bleaching kit.
Free Whitening — for Life!
One of the most important things to know about professional teeth whitening is that even though it’s super effective in getting rid of stains, it’s not a one-time deal. In order to keep your teeth looking their whitest and most beautiful, you need to have periodic whitening treatments — usually about once every 12 to 18 months or so. At Smile Workshop, after your initial whitening treatment, we offer free whitening treatments for life. That means when you have your teeth whitened with us, you can relax, knowing you’ll be able to enjoy those gorgeous results for as long as you like — at no extra cost to you.
The best way to know if teeth whitening is a good choice for you is to talk to your dentist. If you’d like to learn more about our professional teeth whitening treatments or if you’re ready to schedule an exam, give us a call at 1-888-833-8404, or head over to the online request form to enjoy a more attractive, more confident smile.