A normal adult mouth has 28 to 32 teeth. Depending on your level of facial animation, typically at least six of those teeth show prominently when you smile, and more when you speak and laugh. Thus, their condition and color have a tremendous impact on your appearance, and how you are perceived by others. Costa Mesa, CA dentists, Dr. Thomas Rolfes, Dr. Christina Do, and Dr. Timothy Rolfes share this information to help you determine if professional teeth whitening makes sense for you.
The different ways you can whiten your teeth
Tooth enamel looks smooth and impervious. However, under magnification, you can see that it is covered with microscopic tubules. These channels allow saliva to flow in and out of enamel, cleansing it naturally, and help temperature and pressure sensations reach the nerve center of each tooth. Unfortunately, pigments from dark beverages, foods, and tobacco get trapped in tubules as well as scratches, grooves, and pits in tooth enamel. The result is a yellowed, gray, or otherwise dingy smile.
Tooth enamel covers a yellowish layer of hard dentin, which gives strength and structure to teeth. As we age, enamel thins, allowing dentin to show through. In addition, certain medical conditions, medications, and therapies can cause deep intrinsic discoloration of teeth.
Over-the-counter whitening toothpastes contain abrasive ingredients. They scrape some extrinsic stains away, temporarily lightening tooth color. However, they also scratch enamel, actually worsening the problem in the long term. The same is true of the ageless DIY remedy of brushing with baking soda.
The active ingredient in teeth whitening rinses, strips, and gels is a peroxide compound. It is water, with an extra molecule of oxygen. This characteristic makes it chemically unstable, so it reacts when exposed to air by oxidizing. This fizzing action loosens pigments trapped in tubules and other enamel irregularities. As stains are lifted away, teeth regain natural brilliance.
The difference between the effectiveness of retail teeth whitening products and professional treatment lies in the strength of the peroxide. Professional whitening uses a prescription bleaching agent, not available in drug store preparations. It is safe, because you are whitening under the care of a medically-trained dentist and team. Only professional whitening can safely bleach teeth whiter than their lightest natural shade, or lighten dentin and intrinsic stains.
Our practice offers several alternatives:
- Gentle at-home whitening system – We use impressions of your mouth to fabricate plastic application trays that fit precisely. Simply add medical-grade whitening gel and wear the trays for about an hour a day (some patients prefer to whiten while they sleep) until your smile is as brilliant as you desire. The tray system can then be used periodically to keep teeth dazzling. This can be the best dental whitening for the patient with sensitive teeth. Your dentist may add a special buffering ingredient to the gel, and adjust your wearing schedule to minimize discomfort while still achieving terrific results.
- Fast, in-office laser teeth whitening – Relax in the chair while we take extra steps to protect your eyes and soft tissues. Then, the bleaching agent is carefully applied and activated with a dental light. The process is repeated three to four times (each session takes only about 15 minutes), until your teeth are as bright as you’d like.
- Combination whitening – Many patients choose to maintain in-office whitening results with regular at-home treatment. It is a cost-effective way to preserve your investment in a brighter smile.
- The KöR Deep Bleaching System – KöR teeth whitening takes results to the next level. Treatment starts at the dentist’s office and continues at home. This procedure is the best way to whiten teeth that have stubborn or internal discoloration. KöR whitening reviews tell the story of amazing outcomes.
Common questions about professional teeth whitening
Under the care of an ethical, qualified dentist, no. The products and techniques we use are safe for tooth enamel of reasonably healthy adults. We make sure dental problems such as tooth decay, gum disease, and trauma are addressed before whitening takes place.
Because Smiles4OC provides care tailored to the patient’s individual needs, an exact cost cannot be cited. It depends on the method you choose, and the duration of treatment needed to achieve results. However, compared to the trial-and-error cost of “affordable” retail teeth whitening products that are ineffective, or the expense of porcelain veneers, teeth whitening is economical.
There can be sensitivity following treatment. However, with professional techniques, it is generally mild and resolves quickly. If you have very sensitive teeth, the dentist will talk with you about analgesics to relieve discomfort. Most problems with teeth whitening are the result of an overuse of drug store products, in an attempt to achieve professional results.
That depends on your oral hygiene, lifestyle, and diet. Please keep reading these FAQs for more discussion on this topic.
All products and techniques used at Smiles4OC are FDA-approved. Our team has completed special training in these methods, and we have used them ourselves!
Treatment is painless. Extra steps are taken to ensure that the whitening agent stays where it belongs and is applied for an appropriate time frame.
Typically, no. The whitening agent is not strong enough to be a threat to teeth. However, because the application method is so sloppy, chemicals get on gums, other soft tissues, and down the throat. That can cause irritation.
That is subjective, but we support the clinically-proven results of the KöR system. The best teeth whitening method, though, is the one that gives you the results you desire. We help each patient find the procedure that is right for them.
Because teeth whitening is considered a cosmetic treatment, it is excluded by most insurance plans. However, our friendly front desk staff will be happy to help get a determination from your insurer.
Dark colored beers such as stouts, porters, and lagers can stain teeth, diminishing the results of your whitening treatment. If you drink this type of beer regularly, try using a straw to bypass “smile teeth.”
83% of adults in the United States drink coffee – an average of three cups per day. Loaded with dark pigments, it is one of the prime culprits in tarnishing teeth. You don’t have to give it up after whitening, but avoid holding it in your mouth longer than necessary, and swish with plain water or brush right after a cup of coffee.
Chocolate contains tannins, which stain teeth. If you eat a lot of chocolate, sugar is probably a bigger concern. Brush right after snacking on chocolate to avoid stains and to reduce risk of tooth decay.
Please don’t. It is extremely harmful to your oral health, wellness, and life expectancy . . . and it has a tremendously staining effect on teeth. Tar and nicotine turn teeth yellow quickly, and brown over time. If you smoke or use smokeless tobacco, we will be happy to help get your teeth whiter. However, we encourage you to consider a cessation plan for your health and your smile.
Congratulations! You have learned quite a lot about the getting a brighter smile. Would you like to know even more about our teeth whitening procedures and which option is best for you? Call or text Smiles4OC at (714) 557-0700 to schedule an appointment.
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