There are many products and techniques available for patients who want to achieve a brighter smile, and with so many options available, it can be difficult to choose the method that is right for you. The best way to begin any teeth-whitening regimen is to schedule an appointment and talk to your doctor about the differences between in-office professional whitening and at-home whitening.
What Causes Teeth to Look Yellow?
There are multiple factors that cause teeth to become dull and lose their bright, white sparkle. Certain foods can stain your enamel, which is the outermost layer of your teeth. Additionally, plaque build-up on your teeth can cause them to look yellow. This type of discoloration can usually be treated with regular cleaning and whitening remedies.
However, sometimes teeth look yellow because the hard enamel has eroded away, revealing the dentin underneath. Dentin is a naturally yellow, bony tissue that lies underneath the enamel.
If you want to maintain white shining pearls you should avoid the following foods: berries, coffee, balsamic vinegar, pasta sauce, curry, coke and other sodas. In addition, if you are a smoker, you’re going to have to put the cigarette or bong down. However, if you’re like most of the world and you refuse to give up berries and pasta sauce, then you may consider a whitening treatment that can help remove these tougher stains.
After brushing through the ages, our tooth enamel is worn down and the color of the dentin (the inner part of the tooth) begins to show. When the enamel is worn down the tooth develops a brownish color.
Internal teeth stains are caused for the following reasons: 1) when a tooth experiences an infraction or dental injury, 2) a tooth has undergone a root canal treatment, 3) when the person is exposed to fluoride and certain types of medications. If you want to take care of an internal stain, the procedure will be different than for those with stains on the enamel (the outer part of the tooth).
Professional Teeth Whitening
In-office teeth whitening is not an altogether complicated procedure, but it does require skill to avoid injury to the gingival (gum) area. Moreover, expensive equipment may be needed to prepare and finish the procedure. All told, the procedure can take anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes to complete.
Prepping the Teeth;
- Your teeth will likely be given a prophylactic cleaning to clear away plaque and debris that have collected on the surface and between the teeth.
- A dental exam will be performed (often in tandem with the prophylactic cleaning) to check for potential problems such as severe tooth decay, cracks and gum disease. Teeth whitening can cause varying degrees of irritation if these conditions are present. Your dentist will likely delay the procedure until such problems have been corrected.
- Photos may be taken of your teeth, and their color measured on a shade guide. This provides a benchmark for assessing your progress.
What are Your Options?
A number of brand-name whitening systems are in use at dental offices today. Here are a few such systems available in dental offices:
Known for its gentleness and ease of access, the BriteSmile whitening procedure features proprietary hydrogen peroxide gels (concentrations of 15 percent and 25 percent), which are pH balanced to maximize efficacy, and which contain glycerin and water to help minimize tooth dehydration. Dental practices offer both gels, while BriteSmile facilities feature only the 15 percent gel. Generally, the gels are applied to the teeth for three 20-minute intervals.
During each application, the teeth are illuminated with a blue lighting system that is shaped to reach all esthetic zone teeth at the same time.
Praised for the viscosity of its bleaching gel – a sticky quality that is considered a major plus in tooth-bleaching – Opalescence Boost relies on chemistry for achieving its effects, and does not include the use of a special light activator. Its 38 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide gel contains a unique patented component called PF, a mix of potassium nitrate (reducing the risk of sensitivity) and fluoride (the enamel-strengthener which reduces the risk of cavities).
Widely used, the Zoom! system features a 25 percent hydrogen peroxide gel and the Zoom!. Generally, the hydrogen peroxide gel is applied three times, each interval lasting 15 minutes. Immediately afterwards, a sensitivity-reducing fluoride paste-gel is applied to the teeth.
Deep Bleaching is not a teeth whitening brand, but rather a multi-phase protocol involving a reversal of the usual chairside bleaching, followed by home bleaching. This technique has a reputation for whitening even the most intransigent stains (due to tetracycline or fluorosis, for example) and for maintaining optimally whitened teeth over the long haul.
During an office visit, the dentist takes highly detailed impressions of the teeth and gumline. Based on those impressions, vinyl trays containing bleaching-gel reservoirs are custom-fabricated. Resembling the aligners used in contemporary orthodontics, these trays provide a unique fit that compresses right up to the gumline. The intention is to keep the bleaching gel sealed inside, thus preventing gum irritation and the mixing of saliva with the gel.
Total chair time: 30 minutes.
You return to the dentist’s office for a “conditioning visit.” The aim here is not to whiten the teeth, but rather to make them more permeable to oxygen.
- First, the outer surfaces of the teeth are polished with pumice powder.
- Next, two coatings of a desensitizing-conditioning agent are rubbed onto the teeth.
- Your custom-made bleaching trays are loaded with a nine percent hydrogen peroxide gel and pressed onto the teeth. Since the trays are designed in part to protect the gums, the use of retractors and rubber dams is optional – though recommended for patients with extremely sensitive gums. The trays remain in place for 20 minutes.
- The gel is suctioned out of the trays and off the teeth.
- The trays are reloaded, reinserted for 20 minutes and then removed.
- Two coatings of desensitizer are again rubbed onto the teeth.
Total chair time: Approximately one hour.
You are sent home with a kit containing your trays, sufficient carbamide peroxide gel to be used overnight for 14 consecutive nights (when saliva flow is at a minimum and least likely to interfere with the peroxide’s bleaching action) and a tooth desensitizer contained in a squeeze bottle. The goal is both to whiten the teeth and to make them more permeable to oxygen.
Now with your teeth more receptive to the oxygenating effect of bleach, you return to the dentist’s office – this time for a standard power bleaching session with retractors and rubber dam. Depending on how deeply the teeth have been bleached using the home trays, your dentist will use a nine percent or a 27 percent hydrogen peroxide solution. Following chairside bleaching, your teeth will have been bleached to maximum whiteness.
Total chair time: Approximately one hour.
To maintain maximum whiteness, you continue using your Deep Bleaching Trays overnight once every one to three months. Dentists who use the Deep Bleaching regimen say it provides permanent deep-whitening if patients follow maintenance instructions.
At-Home teeth whitening
Try Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is a traditional Indian folk remedy meant to improve oral hygiene and remove toxins from the body. The practice involves swishing oil around in your mouth to remove bacteria, which can turn into plaque and cause your teeth to look yellow.
Coconut oil is a popular choice because it has a pleasant taste and offers many additional health benefits. Coconut oil is also high in lauric acid, which is known for its ability to reduce inflammation and kill bacteria.
Unfortunately, there are no scientific studies to prove that oil pulling whitens your teeth. However, it’s a safe practice and definitely worth a try. Many people claim their teeth are whiter and brighter after regular oil pulling.
To oil pull, put 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth and push and pull the oil through your teeth. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you may need to wait a few seconds for it to melt. Continue the oil pulling for a full 15–20 minutes. Be sure to spit the coconut oil into a toilet or trash can, as it could return to solid form once in your drain pipes and cause a clog.
Brush with Baking Soda
Baking soda has natural whitening properties, which is why it’s a popular ingredient in commercial toothpaste. It’s a mild abrasive that can help scrub away surface stains on teeth.
Additionally, baking soda creates an alkaline environment in your mouth, which prevents bacteria from growing. This is not a remedy that will whiten your teeth overnight, but you should notice a difference in the appearance of your teeth over time.
To use this remedy, mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 2 teaspoons of water and brush your teeth with the paste. You can do this a few times per week.
Use Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a natural bleaching agent that also kills bacteria in your mouth. In fact, people have been using hydrogen peroxide for years to disinfect wounds because of its ability to kill bacteria.
Many commercial whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide, although at a much higher concentration than you will use.
While heavily diluted concentrations appear safe, strong concentrations or overuse can cause gum irritation and tooth sensitivity. There’s also concern that high doses may cause cancer, but this has not been proven.
One way to use hydrogen peroxide is as a mouthwash before you brush your teeth. Make sure you are using a 1.5% or 3% solution to avoid side effects. The most common concentration of hydrogen peroxide at the drugstore is a 3% solution. You can easily dilute this concentration to 1.5% by mixing equal parts peroxide and water.
Another way to use hydrogen peroxide is by mixing it with baking soda to make a toothpaste. Combine 2 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide with 1 teaspoon of baking soda and gently brush your teeth with the mixture.
Use Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has been used for centuries as a disinfectant and natural cleaning product. Acetic acid, which is the main active ingredient in apple cider vinegar, effectively kills bacteria. The antibacterial property of vinegar is what makes it useful for cleaning your mouth and whitening your teeth.
The acetic acid in vinegar has the potential to erode the enamel on your teeth. For this reason, you should not use apple cider vinegar every day. You should also limit the amount of time that apple cider vinegar is in contact with your teeth.
To use it as a mouthwash, dilute it with water and swish it around in your mouth for several minutes. Make sure to rinse your mouth with plain water afterwards.
Use Fruits and Vegetables
A diet high in fruits and vegetables may be good for both your body and your teeth. While they’re no substitute for brushing your teeth, crunchy, raw fruits and vegetables can help rub plaque away as you chew.
In particular, strawberries and pineapple are two fruits that have been claimed to help whiten your teeth.
Prevent Tooth Stains Before They Happen
Your teeth naturally yellow as you age, but there are some things you can do to prevent stains on your teeth.
· Limit Staining Foods and Beverages: Coffee, soda and dark berries are infamous for staining teeth. That doesn’t mean you have to completely avoid them, but you should limit the amount of time these substances are in contact with your teeth.
· Limit Sugar in Your Diet: If you want whiter teeth, cut back on your sugar intake. A diet high in sugar supports the growth of Streptococcus mutans bacteria, the primary type of bacteria that causes plaque and gingivitis. When you do consume a sugary food, brush your teeth soon after you eat.
· Get Plenty of Calcium in Your Diet: Some tooth discoloration is caused by enamel eroding away and exposing the dentin underneath, which is yellow in color. Therefore, anything you do to strengthen the enamel of your teeth will help keep your teeth pearly white. Calcium-rich foods, such as milk, cheese and broccoli, may help protect your teeth from enamel erosion.
Don’t Underestimate the Value of Brushing and Flossing
While some tooth discoloration comes naturally with age, it is largely a result of plaque build-up. Regular brushing and flossing can help your teeth stay white by reducing bacteria in your mouth and preventing plaque build-up. Toothpaste gently rubs out stains on your teeth, and flossing removes bacteria that lead to plaque.
Whitening Toothpaste and Mouthwash
The least expensive options are whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes. Designed to have “whitening” capabilities, toothpastes and mouthwashes work to remove surface stains using mild abrasives. However, unlike the materials used in professional whitening procedures, these products do not lighten the actual color shade of the tooth. Whitening toothpastes affect surface stains and will mildly lighten your teeth.