When people are asked what bothers them most about the appearance of their smile, many say yellow or discolored teeth. Fortunately, teeth whitening can remove stains and noticeably lighten the color of the teeth. As a result, the entire smile looks healthier and more youthful.
There are plenty of over-the-counter whitening systems, but they have limitations. Generic whitening trays are not suited to fit everyone’s teeth, so they can become loose and leak solution, which causes gum irritation. Also, the bleaching agents used in OTC products are not strong enough to deliver dramatic results.
The most popular technique to whiten teeth is with take-home whitening kits distributed by a cosmetic dentist. There are also whitening procedures that can be done in the dental chair and produce immediate, dramatic results. The team at Kois Dentistry offers both options to accommodate the various needs and preferences of our patients.
What Does Teeth Whitening Improve?
Teeth whitening lightens teeth that are stained, discolored or darkened because of any of the following:
- drinking dark-colored beverages like coffee, tea, red wine – the color pigments in these beverages stick to the tooth enamel, darkening it
- use of tobacco – tar and nicotine give the teeth a yellowish color
- the natural effects of aging – the outer shell of the tooth structure, called enamel, covers softer, darker tissue called dentin; with age, the layer of enamel gets thinner and reveals more of the yellowish dentin
- trauma –teeth respond to a traumatic blow or injury by creating more dentin; this darkens the tooth
- taking certain medications – antihistamines, high blood pressure medications and antibiotics are a few of the medications that can discolor teeth
- poor oral hygiene habits
Before proceeding with teeth whitening, our dentists want to determine the root cause of tooth discoloration and rule out any dental health issues. For example, sometimes root canal problems, decay or an abscessed tooth can cause tooth discoloration, and these issues need to be addressed before the teeth can be whitened.
A dental examination is performed and X-rays may be taken to find the source of the discoloration. If the teeth are healthy and decay-free, whitening treatment can proceed.
Based on the type and extent of the stains, we can recommend the most suitable whitening option. We can also advise which stains do not respond to whitening. For example, brown teeth or teeth with gray tones generally do not respond to whitening treatment as well as yellow teeth do.
What a great trip to the Dentist. I highly recommend, they are very professional and make a trip to the dentist feel like visiting old friends.
September 17, 2013
Teeth can be whitened during an in-office, chairside treatment or at home using customized whitening trays.
Dentist-supervised teeth whitening is safe and effective. There are fewer side effects to treatment than there are using over-the-counter whitening products. Some bleaching gels cause slight tooth sensitivity, but it is temporary. We can give you recommendations to prevent sensitivity, gum irritation and other side effects.
Chairside Teeth Whitening
Prior to starting chairside treatment, the teeth are cleaned and possibly photographed to document treatment progress. A protective gel or shield is placed over the gums and the bleaching gel, containing some form of hydrogen peroxide, is painted directly onto the teeth. Depending on the specific whitening system used, the gel may be activated with a special light.
The gel sits on the teeth for about 15 minutes; as it penetrates the enamel, it breaks stains into smaller pieces, brightening the overall color of the teeth. The gel is removed and the process may be repeated two to three times.
Typically, treatment takes about an hour to complete. A follow-up appointment may be scheduled several weeks later to check the progress of treatment.
Take-Home Whitening Trays
Patients that opt for at-home whitening receive customized trays. To create the trays, the dentists take impressions of the upper and lower teeth, and use them to craft well-fitting trays that snugly cover the teeth. These trays do not shift around in the mouth or leak. They are completely portable, so you can whiten at home, away for business or on vacation.
The trays should be filled with whitening gel provided by our team, and worn for up to several hours every day, until the teeth reach the desired shade of white. At-home whitening generally takes several weeks to produce results.
Maintaining Teeth Whitening Results
The proper care and maintenance can prolong the results of teeth whitening treatment long-term. Brush and floss daily and see your dentist every six months for a check-up. Do not smoke, and refrain from drinking dark-colored beverages like tea and coffee that can discolor the teeth. If you do drink a cup of coffee or glass of red wine, rinse out your mouth afterward. Drinking through a straw can also help prevent the color of the beverage from depositing itself on the teeth and causing stains.
Frequently Asked Questions about Teeth Whitening Treatment
How long does it take to see results?
Chairside whitening patients can usually see results within a few hours. At-home whitening takes several weeks of wearing the trays to produce noticeable results.
Does teeth whitening hurt?
No, teeth whitening is not a painful treatment. Sometimes the teeth may feel sensitive or tender afterward, but this can be avoided by having one of our dentists perform treatment and control the concentration of the whitening gel.
Also, if you know your teeth have a history of sensitivity, you might want to brush with a desensitizing toothpaste for about two weeks prior to whitening treatment. Ask us for specific toothpaste suggestions.
Does dental insurance cover teeth whitening treatment?
No, teeth whitening is considered an elective cosmetic treatment, and most insurance companies do not cover it.
Will teeth whitening bleach my restorations?
No, teeth whitening does not bleach existing veneers, crowns, fillings or bridgework. Restorations remain the same color. This is something to keep in mind as you consider whitening treatment.
Will using whitening toothpaste produce the same results?
No, over-the-counter whitening toothpastes have less concentrated bleaching agents and only remove surface stains. Chairside whitening or customized take-home trays are needed to see more dramatic results.
Schedule a Teeth Whitening Consultation
If you would like to discuss whitening yellow, darkened or discolored teeth, please contact the Seattle cosmetic dentists at Kois Dentistry and request a consultation. Call or email us today.