Tooth whitening lightens teeth and helps to remove stains and discoloration. Whitening is among the most popular cosmetic dental procedures because it can greatly improve how your teeth look. Whitening is not a one-time procedure. It will need to be repeated from time to time if you want to maintain the brighter color.
Causes of Tooth Discoloration:
Your teeth can become discolored by stains on the surface or by changes in the tooth material. There are three main types of tooth discoloration:
Extrinsic discoloration - this occurs when the outer layer of the tooth (the enamel) is stained. Coffee, wine, cola or other drinks or foods can stain teeth. Smoking and chewing tobacco also causes extrinsic stains.
Intrinsic discoloration - this is when the inner structure of the tooth (the dentin) darkens or gets a yellow tint. You can get this type of discoloration if:
• You had too much exposure to fluoride during early childhood.
• Your mother used tetracycline antibiotics during the second half of pregnancy.
• You used tetracycline antibiotics when you were 8 years old or younger.
• You had trauma that affected a tooth when you were a young child. A fall, for example, may damage the developing permanent tooth.
• You had trauma in a permanent tooth, and internal bleeding discolored the tooth.
• You were born with a rare condition called dentinogenesis imperfecta. This causes gray, amber or purple discolorations.
Age-related discoloration - this is a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Dentin naturally yellows over time. The enamel that covers the teeth gets thinner with age, which allows the dentin to show through. Foods and smoking also can stain teeth as people get older. Finally, chips or other injuries can discolor a tooth, especially when the pulp has been damaged.
Many extrinsic stains caused by food and drink can be removed by regular professional cleanings and home care. Good home care includes brushing, flossing and rinsing after meals.
Discoloration often can be removed by applying a bleaching agent to the enamel of the teeth. The technique is called "power bleaching." With this method, the dentist applies a light-activated bleaching gel. It causes the teeth to get significantly whiter in about 30 to 45 minutes. Several follow-up treatments may be needed, or take-home bleaching trays may be provided. Professional whitening procedure such as this is one of the best teeth whitening methods.
It's also possible to remove discoloration at home using home teeth whitening kits. The bleaching gels designed for use at home aren't as strong as those applied by your dentist. This means that the process takes longer, usually two to four weeks.
You also can buy whitening products over the counter. They contain a weaker bleach than the products you get from your dentist. The whitening agent is applied as a gel placed in a mouthpiece or as a strip that sticks to your teeth. Over-the-counter mouthpieces fit less securely than the kind you get from your dentist.
Whitening toothpastes are also available that may remove minor stains. However, they do not actually change the overall color of your teeth.