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Due to the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic and current restrictions imposed by Governor Inslee and the State of Washington Department of Health, our office will be temporarily closed for all but emergency dental care. This closure is expected to last until May 18th, at which time we expect to resume regular business hours and all patient care. If you are experiencing a dental emergency requiring immediate attention, you may contact Dr. Kay at (206) 915-8020. Thank you for your support and understanding during this challenging time.


Before and after photo of teeth whitening treatmentA 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.

Tooth Discoloration

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:
•  Consuming dark-colored beverages like coffee, cola, red wine, and tea.
•  Using tobacco products.
•  Aging.
•  Not brushing or flossing your teeth properly.
•  Genetics.
•  Fluoride exposure during infancy.
•  Use of tetracycline antibiotics by pregnant mothers and during early childhood.
•  Injury to a permanent tooth.
•  Tooth development disorders like dentinogenesis imperfect, which result in grey, purple, and amber discolorations.

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

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 Family & Cosmetic 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

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.