Scott Kupetz DMD
Brushing and flossing only does so much to keep our teeth bright and over time they can begin to dull. Certain foods and drinks, tobacco use, trauma, and medications can all contribute to teeth becoming dull and yellowed. Teeth whitening may not fix all teeth, so it is important to consult your dentist before deciding to get it done. Whitening can also worsen existing problems such as tooth sensitivity which is an important factor to think about when making your decision.
Although you may have used a whitening toothpaste, you may not get the results you desire. Whitening toothpaste contains a particular polishing agent which removes more stains than regular toothpaste alone. Whitening toothpaste cannot entirely change the shade of your teeth; they are merely for removing surface stains. There are also at-home whitening kits which either come in the form of strips or gel-trays like your dentist would typically use. Again, these are not as strong as in-office bleaching.
In-office bleaching is the best way to completely change the shade of your teeth. Usually, the visit is anywhere from 30-90 minutes and depending on how stained your teeth are you may need up to three visits. To start, your dentist will place a protective substance on your gums and then places the whitening agent on your teeth. The gels can either be activated by a laser, heat, another kind of special light. If the discoloration is very severe, your dentist can take molds of your teeth to create a specific whitening mouthpiece for you to continue the whitening process at home. This type of at-home whitening is better than over-the-counter whitening kits because the custom fitted mouthpiece keeps the gel on your teeth better. However, it is still not as strong as in office whitening.
A tooth that is discolored due to root-canal therapy may not respond to standard bleaching so your dentist may use an alternative method. The procedure whitens the tooth from the inside out by placing the whitening agent inside the tooth and then placing a temporary filling over it. The tooth is then left like this for a set number of days. The procedure may only need to be done once or can be repeated if the desired shade was not reached the first time.
Whitening is not a permanent solution, but the effects can be made to last if you keep up with your oral hygiene. Drinking too much coffee or other staining drinks and foods can speed up the time it will take for stains to reappear. It is important to limit the consumption of staining drinks and foods and brush often. It is possible to have your teeth re-whitened but whitening them too often can cause severe, permanent damage. We can answer any questions you have about how often you can whiten your teeth.