Most people want a whiter smile, and there are plenty of teeth whitening options available to produce this. But there are many questions about the treatment. At Berkshire Family Dental in Washington, D.C., our goal is not only to give our patients smiles that they’ll love, but to educate them on what’s best for their oral health. Here are a few common questions about teeth whitening treatments.
Food and drink are major culprits in staining teeth (especially drinks such as coffee, tea, and wine), but teeth also become more yellow naturally. Teeth appear white because of the protective outer layer of enamel, but over time, this layer can wear away. Underneath the enamel is the dentin layer, which is more yellow in color. As the enamel thins to reveal more of the dentin, teeth appear more yellow.
The American Dental Association states that teeth can be whitened in one of two ways: using a product with a bleaching agent to penetrate the enamel and change the color of the yellowy dentin or using an abrasive treatment (which includes mouthwash, gum, or toothpaste) that removes superficial stains on top of the enamel layer.
It should be noted that only one of these methods should be considered. Because abrasive whitening treatments only work on surface stains, they are not long-lasting and can be damaging to the teeth and even the gums. Professionals recommend bleaching treatments instead because, when done correctly, they can be less damaging and more effective.
Whitening toothpastes are generally not recommended as they are not very effective. Even toothpastes that contain a bleaching agent (rather than an abrasive agent) have little effect because they are not exposed to the teeth for long enough to do what they’re meant to.
Strips are more effective than toothpastes because they contain chemicals such as carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide that can penetrate the enamel to work on the dentin. However, they can produce side effects such as tooth sensitivity and mouth sores. Rather than whitening strips, custom whitening trays are better recommended because they keep the gums protected and reach the curves of the teeth better to produce more dramatic results.
You may have heard about rinsing your mouth with hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth, but this is not a good idea because the chemical, when it comes into contact with tissues, produces free radical reactions, the same as those that age living tissue.
A professional whitening treatment at Berkshire Family Dental can produce the fastest, most dramatic results. It should be noted, however, that any whitening treatment does not last forever, so if you undergo a treatment, it is best to keep it limited and be sure to whiten teeth only under the guidance and supervision of your dentist in Washington, D.C.