Why Teeth Whitening?
Teeth whitening plain works. When done in the office by a dental professional, virtually everyone who opts for this non-invasive procedure will see a moderate to substantial improvement in the brightness and whiteness of their smile.
Bleaching vs. Whitening
According to information provided by the FDA, the term “bleaching” may only be used when the patient’s teeth can be whitened beyond their natural color. This definition applies strictly to products that contain bleach such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.
The term “whitening” refers to the restoration of a tooth’s surface color by removing dirt and debris. So technically any product that cleans your teeth (like a toothpaste) is considered a whitener. “Whitening” is more frequently used due to its descriptive nature — even when describing products that contain bleach.
Why Do I Need Teeth Whitening?
People start out with sparkling white teeth, thanks to the porcelain-like enamel surface of your tooth. Tooth enamel, which is composed of microscopic crystalline rods, protects the teeth from the effects of chewing, gnashing, trauma and acidic reactions such as those caused by sugar. Over the years enamel is worn down and becomes more transparent, permitting the yellow color of dentin — the tooth’s core material — to show through.
During regular chewing, dentin remains intact while millions of microscopic cracks occur in the enamel. These cracks, as well as the spaces between the crystalline enamel rods, slowly fill up with stains and debris. The result? Your teeth eventually develop a dull, lackluster appearance.
Teeth whitening will remove the stains and debris, leaving the enamel cracks exposed. Some of these cracks will be re-mineralized by saliva, while others will be filled up again with organic debris.
Once you are at the dental office, before-and-after tooth color is usually measured with a shade guide. These are hand-held displays of wide ranges of possibly tooth colors, and are also used in choosing crown and other restoration shades.
The Two Types of Tooth Stains
There are two main forms of stains to your teeth: extrinsic staining and intrinsic staining.
Extrinsic stains are those that appear on the surface of the teeth as a result of exposure to dark-colored beverages, foods and tobacco, as well as routine wear and tear. Superficial extrinsic stains are minor and can be removed with brushing and regular dental cleaning. More intense extrinsic stains need to be removed with more involved methods, such as teeth bleaching. Not correcting severe extrinsic stains can cause the stain to penetrate into the dentin and become ingrained in the tooth if they are not dealt with early.
Intrinsic stains are the discolorations that form on the interior of teeth. These stains can result from trauma, aging, exposure to minerals or medication (like tetracycline) during tooth formation and/or excessive exposure to fluoride. In the past, it was thought that intrinsic stains were too deep in the tooth to be corrected by bleaching. Today, cosmetic dentistry experts have found that even deep-set intrinsic stains are able to be corrected by utilizing supervised take-home teeth whitening, which is maintained over a matter of months or possibly even a year.
What Causes Tooth Staining?
- Age — There is a direct link between your tooth color and your age. Over the years, your teeth will darken as a result of unavoidable wear and tear as well as stain accumulation. Teenagers experience immediate, dramatic results from teeth whitening. In your twenties, as your teeth begin to show a slight yellow cast, teeth whitening may require a little more effort. By your forties, the yellow hue is slowly replaced by brown and more maintenance may be needed. By your fifties, your teeth will have absorbed a host of deep stains which are difficult (but not impossible) to remove.
- Starting Color — We are all born with an inborn tooth color that ranges from yellow-brownish to greenish-grey, and this color intensifies over time. It has been found that Yellow-brown is generally more responsive to bleaching than green-grey is.
- Translucency and Thinness — These are also genetic traits that will become more pronounced with age. While all teeth show some degree of translucency, teeth that are opaque and thick appear lighter in color, show more sparkle, and are more responsive to bleaching. Teeth that are thinner and more transparent — usually the front teeth — have less pigment and are slightly more difficult to bleach. Transparency is the only condition that cannot be corrected by teeth whitening.
- Eating Habits — The regular consumption of red wine, coffee, tea, soda, and other deeply-colored beverages and foods causes large amounts of staining over the years. Acidic foods such as citrus fruits and vinegar contribute to enamel erosion. As a result, the surface becomes more transparent and the yellow-colored dentin of your tooth begins to show.
- Smoking — Nicotine will leave brownish deposits which soak into the structure of your teeth and will cause severe intrinsic discoloration.
- Drugs / Chemicals — Tetracycline usage during tooth formation can produce dark grey or brown ribbon stains on your teeth which can be difficult to remove. Excessive consumption of fluoride causes fluorosis, and will cause associated areas of white mottling on your teeth.
- Grinding — Commonly caused by stress, teeth grinding (gnashing, bruxing, etc.) can add to micro-cracking in the enamel and tooth, and can cause the biting edges to darken.
- Trauma — Falls and other injuries can produce cracks in your teeth, which will collect stains and debris over time.
Dr. Neda Khodai and Veneers
Dr. Neda Khodai at Barranca Dental Excellence is renowned for her teeth whitening solutions. As a dentist in Irvine, she understands the unique needs of her patients for an aesthetically-pleasing and effective solution, while maintaining affordability. Together you will set goals for your dental health and smile that are not just achievable, but long lasting.
If you want more information on Teeth Whitening and would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Khodai, or if you need a dentist in Irvine, click below to get in touch with Barranca Dental Excellence.
Information in this article references the work of Linda Dyett and Larry Addleson, DDS, FAACD in their article “Teeth Whitening: How it Works and What it Costs”