Our teeth can become discolored over time for many reasons. If you’re concerned about the discoloration on your teeth and want to make them shine again, teeth whitening can be a great option for fixing and reversing yellowed stains.

Whiter teeth look and feel healthier. Fortunately, there are many teeth whitening options at the dentist that you can try if you’re looking to fix discoloration. Rhoades Family Dentistry’s teeth whitening services are pain-free and can bring your teeth back to their pearly white shade.

Why Do Teeth Become Discolored?

Over time, your teeth may become stained and change color for a myriad of reasons. While some discoloration is natural and can be solved with toothbrushing, other yellowing and staining is more permanent and requires more extensive treatment to fix.

Here are some common culprits that may be staining your teeth:

  • Food and Drink: Many foods and drinks like coffee, tea, red wine, sports drinks, soda, highly pigmented foods like berries, and sauces such as tomato, curries, and soy can cause discoloration in your teeth. The intense color pigments in these products, called chromogens, attach to your tooth’s enamel and cause staining.
  • Age: The second layer of your teeth below your enamel is called dentin. This layer is softer and can be affected over time as your enamel thins from brushing and eating sugary or highly acidic foods. As more dentin shows through, the more your teeth will look yellowish.
  • Tobacco Use: Tar and nicotine in tobacco products like cigarettes cause staining on teeth. Tar is naturally dark, while nicotine is colorless until it combines with oxygen. These two toxins, mixed in with the smoke, will yellow your teeth and cause surface staining.
  • Medication: Certain medications have side effects that cause your teeth to darken, including many antihistamines, high blood pressure medications, and antipsychotics. Chemotherapy and radiation are also both prone to darkening your teeth.

How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

Teeth whitening is a rather simple process that can be done with bleaching or non-bleaching products. Bleaching products contain peroxides, like hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide, and can remove both surface and deep stains on your teeth.

Bleaching products work by using the peroxide to break down the stains on your teeth into smaller pieces, causing the yellowish color to be less concentrated and your teeth to appear a lot whiter. Whitening products with bleach can allow your teeth to become even lighter than their natural shade.

Teeth Whitening Options

The best teeth whitening options for you will depend on your personal preferences, dental history, and what your dentist recommends. You can choose between an in-office whitening visit or a variety of at-home whitening options.

In-Office Whitening

Professional whitening is done by our dental team in-office and takes about an hour. We will apply a tooth whitening gel to your teeth that contains large amounts of peroxide. 

In-office teeth whitening is a safe and effective procedure that many dentists recommend. During the whitening process, we will place a protective barrier to keep the whitening gel on your teeth and away from your lips, gums, and tongue.

After the procedure, we may also make molded whitening trays made specifically for your teeth that you can follow up with at home.

At-Home Whitening

There are plenty of over-the-counter teeth whitening options that you can choose from as well. These are a cost-effective whitening option, and they are easy to apply and use. At-home whitening products contain smaller amounts of peroxide than dentists’ whitening products, but they can be effective if you give them time.

Here are some common at-home whitening options that you can try:

  • Whitening Strips: These strips are made from a thin, flexible plastic coated with a very low concentration of bleaching product. Whitening strips are easy to use and can be bought over the counter. During application, the strips will conform to your teeth and can be removed after about 30 minutes. Whitening strips tend to be more effective than other at-home options, but they can cause gum irritation and tooth sensitivity.
  • Whitening Rinses: These rinses not only can whiten your teeth but can also freshen your breath and reduce dental plaque and your risk of gum disease. Whitening rinses contain bleaching agents like peroxide. Like other mouthwashes, you swish the rinse in your mouth around twice daily before brushing. However, it may take up to 12 weeks before you see any results with a whitening rinse, so it’s not as effective as the other short-term solutions.
  • Whitening Toothpaste: These kinds of toothpaste contain mild abrasives to help remove surface stains. They do not contain bleach like other whitening products but instead contain chemical agents such as silica, calcium carbonate, aluminum oxide, or baking soda. Whitening toothpaste is not effective at removing deeper stains on your teeth, and it tends to be more abrasive on your gums than other products. If you decide to use whitening toothpaste, look for one with the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval.

What Are the Side Effects of Teeth Whitening?

Some people may experience side effects after teeth whitening procedures, especially after the high-strength in-office whitening. The most common side effects of teeth whitening include increased sensitivity to cold during or after treatment, sore throat, gum discomfort, or white patches on the gum line. You may experience sensitivity due to the whitening product getting through your enamel and to the soft layer of dentin below it, irritating your tooth’s nerve.

All symptoms are temporary and should disappear within a few days. If side effects persist, talk to your dentist right away. Keep in mind that overusing whitening products, especially those done at home, can damage your enamel and gums, so follow all directions carefully and ask your dentist for help.

Is Teeth Whitening Right for Me?

Tooth whitening is safe for most people, but it’s best for those experiencing mild to moderate discoloration. Certain discoloration, like teeth stained with brown or gray shades, cannot be corrected with whitening treatments. There are also some scenarios where whitening is not effective, including:

  • if you have crowns, fillings, caps, veneers, or dental bonding on your front teeth since synthetic materials don’t respond to bleaching products
  • if you have dentures, which should be cleaned properly by your dental team rather than whitened
  • if you have discoloration as a result of an injury to your teeth or from medications

Whitening may be more complex in patients who have such conditions as: tetracycline staining, sensitive teeth, worn enamel, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ/TMD), and bruxism (grinding of teeth). Tooth whitening may still be able to be performed in some cases, so consult your dentist.

If you want to get your teeth whitened, or you’d like to learn more about the whitening process, Rhoades Family Dentistry is here to answer any questions you may have. Contact us today at 913-782-8900 to learn more or schedule an appointment.