The natural color of teeth is typically within a range of whitish-yellow-grayish shades, though they darken naturally with age. Their appearance can also be affected by other factors, like the accumulation of stains acquired from consuming certain foods and drinks, using tobacco products, excess fluoride, or using certain antibiotics, like tetracycline. There are a number of teeth whitening options that can effectively lighten the existing shade of your teeth without removing any of the tooth enamel.
Although natural teeth are not completely white, many people want a brighter smile. Even if you have sensitive teeth, you can safely combat discoloration as long as you visit your dentist before beginning any whitening treatments. The solutions that are best for you will depend on your dental health. To address stained or discolored teeth, a wide range of teeth whitening options have become available, and can be divided into two broad categories: bleaches and surface whiteners.
Teeth whitening toothpaste that works
Teeth whitening toothpaste falls in the category of surface whiteners, which utilize special abrasives to remove surface stains. These abrasive elements are usually only finer versions of those found in regular toothpastes, so they don’t cause excessive wear of tooth enamel.
Does teeth whitening toothpaste work?
The effectiveness of teeth whitening toothpaste depends on the extent of tooth staining or discoloration, and should not be used as an alternative for professional cleaning. There are also some chewing gums that have a similar whitening effect on your teeth.
Teeth whitening bleach gel
Most of the products in this category are peroxide-based (carbamide- or hydrogen-peroxide) and are known to change the natural color of the tooth. However, not all stains respond to these treatments. So, people considering using tooth-bleaching gels should consult with a dentist to establish the cause of the discoloration, and identify whether they are proper candidates for bleaching. This step is particularly important for individuals with root canal treatments, fillings, crowns, or very dark stains.
If you are a suitable candidate for bleaching, your dentist will use one of two methods:
- Vital bleaching – performed on natural teeth that have become discolored with age, or due to food, drinks, or tobacco
- Non-vital bleaching – performed on dead teeth, like those that have stained due to root canal
Teeth whitening bleach trays
Custom teeth whitening trays are worn over the teeth with whitening gel to deal with the discoloration. Tray whitening procedures are carried out at home, some at the dentist’s office, while others do both. But before any of them can begin, your dentist must design and fabricate your custom-fitted trays.
The procedure for using custom teeth whitening trays to achieve a whiter smile is rather simple.
- To generate the molds needed to make your whitening trays, your dentist will take impressions of your teeth.
- A bleaching solution is put inside the trays after you’ve received them, and you wear them for up to 4 hours per day for 1–2 weeks.
- Within that time, you’ll see a noticeable improvement in the color of your teeth.
Over-the-counter vs. Custom Teeth Whitening Trays
Applications of over-the-counter whitening trays are inferior to those of custom trays for two key reasons.
- Fit and Comfort: Custom trays are designed to fit snugly but comfortably, which makes them more effective than over-the-counter trays that tend to run large and loose.
- Gum irritation can happen when a tray doesn’t fit snugly over your teeth and gel leaks out, causing pain and discomfort to the gums.
Teeth whitening bleach on gums
The idea of brushing with abrasive chemical agents or using high-concentration peroxide gels surely sounds unpleasant if you already have sensitive teeth, which means you have exposed dentin. The American Dental Association cites gum inflammation and tooth sensitivity as potential adverse reactions from peroxide-based whitening treatments. Fortunately, the effect can be minimized by getting professional teeth whitening at the dentist’s office, or wearing custom bleaching trays that reduce the risk of bleach gel leaking out and irritating the gums. Moreover, in the vast majority of cases, gum and tooth sensitivity is a temporary side-effect that should vanish in 1-3 days following treatment.
What to expect during a dental appointment for whitening
When considering teeth whitening, it is important that you get proper assessment to rule out any possible permanent risks or serious side effects with a specific treatment. During the assessment, your dentist will:
- Diagnose the cause of any stains or discoloration
- Ensure your mouth is healthy before recommending a whitening option
- Discuss with you the options available and the best one for your case
- Advise you on factors that may influence the whitening process, like antibiotic staining
- Evaluate whether your crowns, fillings, and veneers need replacement, because they don’t stain or discolor
- Check for gum recession
- Discuss possible tooth sensitivity and how to address it
How many teeth whitening sessions do i need
Most patients need just one teeth-whitening treatment session in the dentist’s office, though it may require multiple administrations of the bleaching solution to gradually change the shade of your teeth to the desired one. If you’re wearing the at-home whitening trays, then the process may take up to two weeks to achieve the desired result.
What to eat after teeth whitening
Your dietary and beverage choices over the following 48 hours should be carefully selected because of not only the potential gum sensitivity after bleaching, but also the high risk of tooth damage due to a temporary dentin exposure. The foods and drinks we consume can have a substantial impact on the overall color of our teeth, as several studies and observations demonstrate.
However, your teeth are considerably more susceptible to discoloration if you recently had them whitened. A white diet is therefore advised for anyone who has recently undergone the procedure. Recommended foot options include light-colored, acid free items such as:
- White fish
- Rice – as an accompaniment for the meats
- Pasta – but avoid colored sauces like tomato sauce or green pesto
- White Cheese – without the wine
- White Onion – avoid red onion
- Egg Whites – avoid the yoke
- White Potatoes – without the skin
- White Bread – without the crust
- White Yoghurt
- Sugarless porridge
You should also avoid the following during the first 48 hours, and limit their consumption in future since they have a staining effect on your teeth.
- Black Coffee – add milk if you must drink
- Black Tea – add milk if you must drink
- Red Wine – the acidity and dark colors make it a high-risk drink
- White wine – its acidity weakens tooth enamel, making you more vulnerable to other staining food
- Fizzy Drinks – they contain acid and color
- Fruit Juices – have high acidity
- Dark condiments – soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, even tomato sauce have both color and acidity
- Dark Fruits
- Sweets and Chocolate
- Tobacco products
How do I proceed with teeth whitening?
Considering that there are numerous teeth whitening options, including in-office and at-home bleaching options, we suggest that you talk to professional and experienced dentists before selecting a method.