The Teeth Whitening Guide

Does your smile light up the room when you flash it? Or do you prefer to not show your smile because you’re embarrassed by stained or discolored teeth? The good news is that teeth stains are usually cosmetic, and don’t necessarily mean that your smile is in trouble. More good news is that, as cosmetic issues, teeth stains can often be erased with a simple teeth whitening procedure and don’t require complex treatment. The bad news is that stains can occur even in the midst of good hygiene, which can be frustrating if you’re meticulous about the health and appearance of your smile.

Why Teeth Stain in the First Place

Why do teeth change color even though you brush and floss them every day? The most common reasons are the food and beverages you consume, which contain intensely-pigmented molecules called chromogens that dictate their color. Chromogens like to cling to tooth enamel, and the darker your meal is, the more noticeable its chromogens will be on your teeth. Under normal circumstances, color molecules don’t stick easily, but when enamel is weak, your teeth can change color more quickly. Certain oral bacteria that contribute to dental plaque also contribute to tooth decay by converting sugar into acid that destroys tooth enamel. When weakened by acid, enamel provides a more suitable surface for chromogens to hang on, increasing your risk of stained teeth.

How Teeth Whitening Works

Teeth whitening brightens your smile’s visage by erasing the stains on and just underneath your tooth enamel and brightening the tooth structure underneath (dentin). The active ingredient, peroxide (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide) works by penetrating enamel and oxidizing the tooth to brighten its appearance.

Common Questions About Teeth Whitening

Will whitening make my teeth sensitive?

Minor sensitivity is common immediately following a whitening procedure, especially in-office treatment, but it should subside on its own shortly. If you experience sensitivity or a toothache before treatment, then Dr. Fondriest may have to treat your tooth for an infection, which may be the cause of your tooth stains. If sensitivity persists after your whitening treatment, then inform Dr. Fondriest as soon as possible.

Will whitening erase all of my teeth stains?

Teeth whitening is designed to address almost all stains that occur on or near the surface of your tooth enamel. If a stain or discoloration occurs within the tooth’s dentin, then whitening may not work to brighten it. Fortunately, Dr. Fondriest employs a number of cosmetic dentistry options aside from whitening to improve discolored teeth, including dental bonding, porcelain veneers, and lifelike dental crowns, depending on your exact needs.

How long does treatment last?

The duration of your whitening treatment depends on the method you choose. If you’re in a hurry, then Dr. Fondriest can whiten your teeth in just one visit, typically in about an hour. Patients who wish for a more leisurely procedure can opt for out take-home whitening kits, which includes a professional-strength whitening gel and a set of custom-made dental trays. The trays are designed to fit snugly over your teeth, allowing you to apply the gel evenly onto their surfaces. Used as directed, take-home whitening can brighten your smile up to ten shades in 10-14 days.

DIY Whitening Tips

Although teeth stains occur naturally, you can still lessen their impact with good hygiene and a little education. Besides brushing and flossing them twice every day, you can help make your teeth more stain-resistant by ensuring your tooth enamel remains strong and healthy. As the most mineralized substance in your body, the enamel is made almost entirely of calcium and phosphate—minerals that are found abundantly in dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) and most meats (turkey, chicken, beef). Drink water after your meals if you can’t brush your teeth to neutralize enamel-weakening acid and rinse away lingering chromogens.

About Your Lake Forest Dentist:

Aside from providing expert general and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is a former Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from Chicago and surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.