Is Teeth Whitening right for you

All About Teeth Whitening


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Teeth whitening has become one of the most requested forms of cosmetic dentistry in recent years, as patients desire shiny, white teeth. Patients have the option of choosing to whiten their teeth at home or in their dental office. Huntersville Dentistry offers patients safe and professional teeth whitening services and is happy to discuss options that meet your needs and lifestyle.

What is Teeth Whitening?

Teeth whitening removes stains and discoloration caused by age or trauma.

Keep in mind that it is not a one-and-done procedure. Patients will need to come in over three or so 60-90-minute appointments, depending on the method used.

Teeth whitening changes the color of the teeth on the inside (called intrinsic whitening) or by removing stains on the outside of the teeth (extrinsic whitening).

What Causes Teeth to Turn Yellow?

Just like our hair turns gray, our teeth yellow as we age. Despite the yellow appearance on the outside enamel of our teeth, the yellowing actually occurs on the inner part of our tooth, called the dentin.

As we become older, the dentin darkens and the tooth enamel thins. The thinner enamel allows the dark color of the dentin to show through. Many stains are external and caused by:

  • Consumption of certain foods and beverages, including red wine, coffee, and tea.
  • Tobacco use
  • Failure to care for teeth properly

Alternatively, stains can appear on the inside of the tooth. These are caused by:

  • Trauma due to falling or breaking a tooth
  • Genetics
  • Overexposure to fluoride as a child
  • Taking the antibiotic Tetracycline before the age of 10

Tooth whitening can be done either at home or at the dentist. Before beginning any tooth whitening procedure, please talk to your dentist. Not everyone is a good candidate for teeth whitening. Patients with any of the following should refrain from in-home treatments and seek a professional:

  • Sensitive teeth
  • White spots or decay present on the teeth
  • Gum disease
  • A bridge, crown, or other custom dental work
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • You have cavities
  • GERD or acid erosion present on teeth

At-Home Whitening Products

The number of products available for teeth whitening is overwhelming. Walk down the oral care aisle in the drug store and you’ll see whitening toothpaste, whitening strips, gels, trays, rinses, and more.

In general, over-the-counter teeth whitening products are safe, though keep in mind that because they are not considered drugs, they are not regulated by the FDA.

However, many teeth whitening products available in stores are also not approved by the ADA. This does not necessarily mean that they are not safe to use, however, the safest option is to work directly with your dentist.

Dentist-Supervised Whitening Treatments

Dentist-supervised treatments offer better results than at-home treatments. For one, we can use a stronger whitening agent under our supervision than what is available over-the-counter.

Treatments available for at-home use or those dentist-supervised at-home products contain a lower strength bleaching agent—10% to 22% carbamide peroxide, which is the same as 3% hydrogen peroxide. In-office treatments contain hydrogen peroxide in concentrations ranging from 15% to 43%. For those needing instant results, in-office treatment is the best bet.

There are two types of dentist-supervised treatments:

Professional whitening at the dentist. In this case, you will come to see Dr. Marra for a few 60-90-minute sessions. He will apply a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide to the teeth and then use light to accelerate the chemical reaction to stimulate the whitening process.

In-office treatments provide better protection to sensitive areas like the gums or teeth with cavities because your dentist will apply a protective gel or shield prior to treatment. Over-the-counter products do not provide these protective measures.

Custom whitening trays. This is a great option for those who want a supervised treatment while still having the convenience of whitening their teeth at home. Dr. Marra will take an impression of your teeth and create custom trays to fit your teeth exactly. The trays hold a whitening gel that you can apply and use at home repeatedly for the rest of your life (as long as your teeth don’t move).

The custom trays minimize contact with the gum tissue while maximizing contact between the gel and the teeth. Simply apply the gel and wear the mouthpiece for several hours or overnight.

It’s important to note that no matter which method you choose, the whitening effects are not permanent. If you wish to have consistently white teeth, then this is something you will need to do regularly.

Teeth whitening can cause tooth sensitivity, tooth damage, and pain if not applied correctly.

Huntersville Dentistry is happy to offer our patients safe dentist-supervised whitening treatments. Call us today at 704.892.7866 to schedule an appointment or to chat with us about any questions you have.

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