Who doesn’t want whiter teeth? Do you? It’s possible if your teeth are stained and discolored. As we grow older, habits, food, and beverages can cause our teeth to yellow. There are several factors for this, including the food we eat, the beverages we drink, habits such as smoking or chewing tobacco, and yes just aging. 

In this day and time, many people want their teeth to be much whiter than they are. At Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry, teeth whitening is one of the cosmetic procedures we perform the most. But, a common question our patients ask is whether the whitening process can damage teeth. In this article, we will shed light on the details of teeth whitening and dispel any myths you may have heard.

What Causes Tooth Discoloration?

Factors that affect tooth color include:

  • Genetics
  • Tobacco usages
  • Drinking colored beverages such as red wine, coffee, and tea
  • Teeth grinding
  • Malnutrition
  • Age
  • Medications such as tetracycline
  • Tooth trauma
  • DIY teeth whitening solutions

How Do Teeth Whitening Products Work?

The term “teeth whitening” refers to a variety of processes that make your natural teeth appear brighter and whiter by removing stains and discoloration from the surface of the teeth. There are several methods of teeth whitening, including professional treatments by a dentist, over-the-counter products, and at-home kits. Some methods are not safe for tooth enamel. 

The safest and scientifically proven whitening system is Opalescence. This system uses either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide as a whitening agent. The active oxygen molecules in the whitening agent can penetrate the enamel of the teeth and react with the discolored molecules that cause the discoloration. This action spreads the active oxygen molecules and whitens the entire tooth while keeping the enamel safe.

What Are the Main Ways to Whiten Your Teeth?

You can whiten your teeth by using professional procedures, over-the-counter products, and home-based teeth whitening methods. Always be sure to avoid certain foods and beverages after whitening your teeth that can affect the color such as coffee, red wine, and sugary drinks.

Professional Teeth Whitening Procedures

A professional teeth whitening procedure requires a dental professional to perform an in-office treatment with the guidance of a dentist. The dentist uses a whitening gel activated by a specialized lamp. A common treatment used by dentists is the Zoom Whitening Treatment. This usually costs, on average, $500.

Over-the-Counter Teeth Whitening Products

Over-the-counter products may contain baking soda, charcoal, or low concentrations of carbamide and hydrogen peroxide. Some may also contain fluoride to strengthen tooth enamel. Teeth whitening products sold over the counter work in one of two ways. They either scrape away stains using physical force or bleach those stains with the same chemicals used for in-office whitening procedures. These FDA-approved products are clinically safe and effective. You will pay anywhere from $30 to $100, depending on the treatment.

Physical Abrasion

Products that have any sort of grittiness will act as an abrasive and physically file away stains that are on the surfaces of your teeth. An example of this type of product is a toothpaste that claims to both whiten teeth as well as clean them.

Chemical Bleaching

Most whitening strips, gel-filled mouth trays, and rinses work by putting your teeth in contact with chemical bleaching agents like carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. The concentrations of chemicals in the over-the-counter products are much lower than the professional in-office procedures.

Home-Based Methods

Here are a few methods you can try at home to whiten your teeth.

Brushing with Baking Soda

Baking soda gently polishes away stains on the surface of teeth. Research from 2017 found that using baking soda is not too harsh on the enamel; instead, it is a safe way of removing stains.

Using Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleach that can help whiten stained teeth. A sound method is to brush with a mix of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide for 1-2 minutes twice a day for a week. Only do this for a week and don’t do it consistently each week–only occasionally. Hydrogen peroxide may increase tooth sensitivity.

Chewing High-Fiber Foods

Chewing certain high-fiber vegetables and legumes can help neutralize the acid in the mouth and protect the enamel on the teeth. Beans or leafy greens like spinach can cause the mouth to produce more saliva, which helps clean the mouth from acid.

Making Dietary Changes

You can prevent further staining by eliminating foods that mark the teeth. Foods and beverages that contain tannins, such as wine and tea, can stain the teeth. Coffee, dark sodas, and juices can also stain them. Acidic foods can make the teeth look yellow by wearing down the enamel. If you are concerned about the color of your teeth, avoid the excessive consumption of citrus, coffee, and soda. Additionally, always brush your teeth after eating acidic foods, but make sure you wait at least 30 minutes. 

Do Teeth Whitening Procedures Damage Your Teeth?

There is no scientific basis supporting the myth that teeth whitening procedures damage the enamel. However, it is possible to have side effects from whitening products when misused. If you have some level of sensitivity after whitening your teeth, it isn’t proof that there has been any side effect relative to enamel erosion. Always follow the instructions carefully and consult with a dentist before beginning any treatment.

Contact an Appointment with Our Dentists in Cary and Holly Springs Today!

Contact our dentists at Sninski & Schmitt to have either a dental checkup and consultation or a teeth whitening procedure. We can help you get a beautiful smile! Call us at our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and our Cary, NC dentist office at (919) 467-2203, or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.

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