Who does not love a bright smile? If you are looking to spruce up your look and get a dazzling white smile, various options are available. Tooth whitening is the process that will make your teeth appear white and bright, and it is done using bleaching and non-bleaching whitening products.
The terms “whitening” and “bleaching” can be used interchangeably, but experts clarify that “bleaching” can only be used if a product contains bleach. Read along as we break down everything regarding teeth whitening- from tooth discoloration to the various treatment options available and estimated costs.
What Causes Tooth Discoloration?
Understanding the possible causes of teeth discoloration is essential if you want to maintain a vibrant smile. It enables your dentist to determine the most suitable whitening procedure, and you get to know the best way to keep your look. Tooth discoloration is a widespread occurrence and can result from a variety of issues. A major one is the foods we eat and drink may stain and discolor our teeth.
Oral hygiene and the type of medication we use can also contribute to teeth discolored and dull-looking teeth. Over time, you may notice your smile becoming less vibrant. Teeth stains can appear on the tooth surface or below the tooth enamel, while some people develop both types of stains. Hence, teeth staining can be categorized into extrinsic and intrinsic.
Extrinsic stains appear on the surface of the teeth due to exposure to colored foods and drinks.
Intrinsic stains appear on the internal part of teeth and may be caused by exposure to minerals, aging, teeth trauma, and many more.
Common Causes of Teeth Discoloration Include:
- Medical reasons – Medical conditions such as calcium deficiency, rickets, metabolic and liver diseases have an impact on the tooth enamel. As a result, it leads to changes in the appearance of your teeth. In addition, certain medications such as antipsychotic drugs, antihistamines, and the medicines used to manage high blood pressure can cause tooth stains.
- Foods and drinks – Some of the foods we consume may be delicious and maybe even healthy for our bodies, but they end up causing damage to our teeth in the long run. Tomatoes, cranberries, beets, apples, cherries, potatoes, and many others cause staining. Drinks and beverages such as tea, coffee, wine, and juices can also do a number on the whiteness. Any food that is likely to stain your clothes can also do the same to your teeth. For instance, people who consume wine regularly tend to have a purple undertone on their teeth.
- Dental hygiene – Failing to brush your teeth regularly is one of the major reasons behind tooth discoloration. When you fail to brush or floss, food particles and bacteria stick around your teeth and end up staining them.
- Genes – Genetics determine the thickness and brightness of your enamel, which can play a role in the appearance of your teeth.
- Smoking – Smoking tobacco not only puts you at a high risk of gum diseases and oral health issues but is also known to cause the yellowing of your teeth.
- Age – As we grow older, our tooth enamel consequently wears down. The dentin part of the tooth, which is yellowish in color, starts to show through.
Now that you have an idea of the possible causes of teeth discoloration, you can do a self-evaluation and see what could cause discoloration in your teeth, whether it happens now or in the future. Some various procedures and products are used to whiten your teeth and reduce the appearance of stains.
Depending On The Discoloration And The Results You Want To Achieve, These Are The Whitening Options:
This type of whitening is done at the dentist’s office and entails the application of a concentrated bleaching agent, mostly peroxide gel, to your teeth. The bleaching agent can be combined with a special light, heat, or a laser to enhance whitening. Whitening at the dentist is the quickest way to whiten your teeth, as the results will be noticeable within 30- to 60-minutes post-treatment.
Depending on the level of discoloration, the dentist may recommend a few more visits until you achieve the best results. It is relatively the most expensive approach as you could part with approximately $600 to $1,000, but the results will be worth it. The total cost of whitening will be determined by the number of whitening sessions you will require and the kind of equipment the dentist may use.
Laser whitening, for instance, is usually more expensive than the other options. A significant advantage of having a dentist undertake this procedure is that they will check for cavities and examine your gums’ health to treat any problems before you whiten.
Professionally Dispensed Take-Home Kit
Your dentist can make you custom-fit bleaching trays that resemble mouth guards, which you can wear for 30 to 60 minutes per day. They contain a lower concentration carbamide peroxide gel that stays on the teeth for an hour or overnight. The peroxide will break down to urea and hydrogen peroxide, which will, in turn, change the tooth’s color through a chemical reaction.
You are directed to wear these trays for a few weeks to achieve long-lasting results. Customized trays may cost you between $250 to $500 on average. Take-home methods are much more affordable but require a lot of effort on your part.
Over-the-counter whitening is the cheapest and one of the most convenient options. It involves using a store-bought kit, and the gel contained in the kit has a lower concentration than that of the professionally dispensed take-home kits.
You apply the gel to the teeth using one-size-fits-all bleaching trays, paint-on applicators, or strips. The downside of this option is that you may end up whitening only a few of the front teeth, unlike professional trays that whiten the entire set.
Popular OTC Teeth Whitening Options Include
Over-the-counter whitening strips contain a small amount of hydrogen peroxide compared to professional ones. You can purchase them from drug stores locally or online, and they cost between $10 to $15 for a package for several strips.
The application procedure is quite simple: you place a strip over your teeth and leave it on for as long as the package indicates. You can apply them once or twice daily, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. Results are noticeable within a few days and can last about four months.
Note: Avoid leaving whitening strips on your teeth longer than the recommended period stated in the package. You risk getting sore gums or other mouth problems if left on for an extended time. One more thing to avoid is taking soda or any acidic drink immediately after whitening, as they may cause damage to your teeth.
A tooth whitening rinse is mainly used to reduce dental plaque and treat gum disease. Most of the rinses contain hydrogen peroxide, which is responsible for making teeth whiter. They are popular forms of whitening products available in the market. However, using rinses will require patience as manufacturers say it may take more than three months to have results.
You swish them in your mouth for a minute two times a day before you brush your teeth, and voila! Some experts argue that rinses may be less effective than other over-the-counter products because they are used on teeth for a mere two minutes daily. Rinses go for about $5 per bottle.
Tray-based whiteners come in the form of a mouth guard-like tray, which contains a whitening solution. You can wear the tray for a couple of hours per day or in the evening for a month. The time taken will depend on the level of discoloration and your desired objectives.
You can find tray-based tooth whitening products at the nearest drug store for about $30. Alternatively, you can get a custom-fitted tray from the dentist for about $150. Gel-filled trays can irritate your gums if they don’t fit properly. If this happens, stop using the product to avoid causing damage to your gums.
The point to note is that your teeth may feel a little sensitive as soon as you whiten, but it’s usually for a short period. If you find it uncomfortable, stop the treatment and seek the opinion of your dentist.
If You Experience Sensitivity, You Can Eliminate Or Reduce It By:
- Reduce the amount of time you wear the tray-for example, try two 30-minute sessions instead of two 60-minute sessions.
- Pause the whitening procedure for about three days to allow your teeth to adjust.
- Look for a high fluoride-containing product, which may help as it will remineralize to the teeth. Apply the product to your tray and wear it for 3 minutes before applying the whitening agent.
- You can also brush your teeth with toothpaste made for tooth sensitivity. Such kinds of toothpaste contain potassium nitrate, a substance that helps soothe the tooth’s nerves.
It is essential to remember that you cannot whiten dental restorations such as crowns, bridges, bonding, veneers, implants, and dentures. These restorations are made of artificial materials, usually, porcelain, which does not respond to whiteners. Therefore, one can whiten only natural teeth. Pregnant and nursing mothers are warned to avoid teeth whitening, as the impact of bleach on the fetus or infant may be harmful.
Whitening toothpaste is the simplest and most common of all methods. Almost every home uses toothpaste as part of its regular hygiene routines. There are plenty of affordable options and brands in the market, with prices ranging from USD1 to USD15.
Affordable as it may be, whitening toothpaste will not do much for your teeth compared to professional whiteners and over-the-counter products. Toothpaste will only remove surface stains and does not have bleach, which is the agent that lightens teeth properly. They may lighten the tooth’s color by one shade, while whitening conducted by a dentist will leave your teeth three to eight shades lighter.
Do Home-Based Whiteners Work?
There are a variety of popular home-based whiteners that may not be clinically proven.
Activated charcoal powders and pastes are popular homemade options for those seeking white teeth on a budget. Is activated charcoal safe and effective for teeth whitening? A study, which sought to determine if charcoal is safe for teeth whitening, found that charcoal was not as effective as whitening toothpaste with blue covarine. Blue covarine deposits a blue pigment on teeth, giving it a whiter appearance.
The study was done on a population in Malaysia who use a salt and charcoal mixture to brush their teeth. The researchers discovered study population had some cavities in their mouths and evidence of yellowing that indicated some homemade products might not be as effective, despite their popularity.
Is Professional Teeth Whitening Worth It?
Professional teeth whitening seems expensive compared to a simple at-home kit, and most people may wonder whether or not the price is justified? The advantage of trusting a professional for the job is that it is safe, faster, and effective. Dentists will whiten your teeth without causing damage to your gums and enamel. Additionally, they will use medical-grade tools and materials that will not harm your dental area.
How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last?
While the degree of whiteness will depend on the method used, teeth whitening is not permanent, and you will need to redo it as the effects wear off. If you expose your teeth to foods and drinks that cause staining, you may see the whiteness begin to fade within a month.
Here Are Some Tips To Help Maintain White Teeth
Whenever you eat or drink pigmented food/drinks, swish your mouth with water to remove particles and cleanse stains. If possible, use a straw when drinking pigmented drinks.
Practice good oral hygiene: Dentists recommend brushing teeth at least twice per day. Brush as soon as you wake up and before bedtime. Create a habit of flossing daily, using a water flössen or string floss. Use mouth rinses much more frequently as they reduce the pesky stains between teeth.
Use whitening toothpaste at least once or twice a week to clean surface stains and prevent teeth yellowing.