Types of Teeth Whitening
After taking a look at the two types of staining, we'll examine different teeth whitening techniques, and the pros and cons of each.
One of the most common questions I receive is, What options do I have for whitening my teeth?
This post will dispel some myths and talk about which teeth whitening options I recommend.
Types of Staining
Teeth can become stained by coffee, wine, smoking, and even naturally occurring mouth bacteria.
Surface stains, or extrinsic staining, can be removed by polishing the enamel. Professional cleaning and polishing procedures at your dentist’s office can remove much of the external staining on your teeth. Baking soda based toothpastes, such as Arm & Hammer whitening toothpaste, can be a safe way to reduce external stains at home. Other whitening toothpastes should be used with caution or alternated with a non-whitening toothpaste, as they can often be too abrasive for everyday use.
Natural tooth color differs from one individual to another, and many people desire a whiter, brighter smile, feeling that their natural color is too dark or “yellowish”.
Intrinsic staining can also be a factor, when stains penetrate below the surface of the enamel. Peroxide based whitening can be effective for whitening below the surface in these cases. Several options, both over-the-counter and professional, are available.
Over the counter: Crest 3D Whitestrips Professional
There are several brands of whitening products available over the counter, including strips, pens, and rinses.
One of the most reliable products that I can recommend is Crest 3D Whitestrips Professional. These strips work the same way professional whitening does, with hydrogen peroxide. The downside is that they can be a bit difficult to keep in place on your teeth.
I don’t recommend purchasing products that come with a blue light, as this has not been proven to improve whitening.
Many patients are under the impression that teeth can be dramatically whitened in a single visit with special lights and equipment. Unfortunately, this is not entirely true.
Zoom, one of the most popular whitening brands, has popularized this procedure. While we do offer one-hour, in-office Zoom whitening, I only recommend this for patients in a hurry that want to get a quick boost to their smile.
Custom Take-Home Whitening Trays
This is the whitening method I recommend most often. After we take an impression of your teeth, a custom whitening tray is fabricated to give you the perfect fit. You can then use professional strength whitening gel to whiten at your own pace at home. Different strengths are available, as patients with more sensitive teeth may benefit from a slower whitening process with a lower strength gel.
One thing to be aware of is that the numerical percentage printed on your gel cartridge does NOT tell the whole story. Peroxide comes in two forms, carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen Peroxide is about three times more concentrated than carbamide peroxide, so make sure to ask your dentist about the proper contact time for the specific gel you are using.
There are many other important things to know about teeth whitening, which will likely be the subject of a future blog post. For now, make sure to consult with your dentist before using any kind of whitening product! Cavities, existing fillings and crowns, tooth sensitivity, and other conditions should be considered before whitening.