A tooth whitening procedure is one of the most popular dental procedures among Americans. Since it is a cosmetic procedure, your teeth will need to undergo whitening procedures every year or so to maintain their radiant white color.
The outer layer of your tooth, called the enamel, is naturally translucent and has light-reflecting properties that make your teeth look bright white. People who have thin enamel may have teeth that look off-white or yellowish, as the color of the dentin comes to the fore. Having smooth or rough enamel also affects the color of your teeth.
Every day, a thin protein layer, called dental pellicle, is formed on the surface of your enamel. The pellicle picks up and retains stains.
Some of the most common reasons why teeth get stained are:
Stains that develop on the outside of your tooth are called extrinsic stains. These stains are easier to clean. Stains that develop on the inside of your tooth are called intrinsic stains. These stains may not respond to whitening treatments and may require other cosmetic treatments to cover them.
Types of Tooth Whitening Procedures
There are two main types of whitening procedures:
Vital whitening is done on a tooth with a live nerve. This is the most common type of whitening procedure and involves a gel being applied to the surface of your tooth, either directly or with the help a dental tray. This gel contains a bleaching agent, usually hydrogen peroxide. After the gel is placed, we will accelerate the bleaching process with a special laser light.
At Kevin Kay DDS Comprehensive Family Dentistry, tooth whitening usually takes 30 to 90 minutes and may require single or multiple appointments. The number of sessions and treatment time depends on the severity of the stains and how white you want your teeth to be. Keep in mind that whitening cannot change the actual color of your natural teeth but just makes it brighter.
If your teeth are badly stained, we may recommend you use a few whitening products, like abrasive toothpaste, at home also.
Non-vital whitening is done on teeth that have undergone root canal treatment and do not have live nerves. These teeth consist of intrinsic stains. Since the discoloration stems from inside the tooth, we will place a bleaching agent inside it and cover it up with a temporary filling. We may repeat the procedure for a few days until your tooth attains your preferred white shade.
Whitening is not effective on some stains like those produced by tetracycline. In this case, we may recommend other cosmetic options like bonding or veneers to cover the discoloration.
Teeth whitening procedure is purely cosmetic and involves virtually no risk. You may experience minor irritation if the bleaching gel comes in contact with your gums. The effect of bleaching on pregnant women is also not known, so women should postpone the procedure until after they have given birth. Aside from this, whitening is one of the safest cosmetic procedures.
If you are unhappy with the appearance of your teeth and would like them to appear brighter, schedule an appointment with us by calling us at (425) 738-8476 today.