How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

teeth whitening how it works

Let’s talk about how teeth whitening works. It’s a simple procedure in which bleaching substances remove stains from teeth by lightening their color. A brighter smile is the aim, whether at-home kits or at the dentist’s office are used. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through the procedure step-by-step in this tutorial, so you can easily grasp how to get the radiant smile of your dreams.

Understanding Teeth Whitening

Are you wondering what is teeth whitening? It is a super popular cosmetic dental treatment in the U.S. Every year, millions of Americans go for it. Even if you’re good with brushing and seeing your dentist, your teeth might still lose their brightness over time. That’s why lots of people choose teeth whitening to keep their smiles looking bright and shiny.

Explaining Changes in Tooth Color

​​Throughout our lives, teeth can change color for a variety of reasons; they frequently appear darker or more yellow. Certain changes cannot be prevented, while others can. The good news is that whitening products work wonders for the majority of them!

Knowing the structure of teeth is essential to understanding these changes and the operation of actual teeth whitening. The pulp, which is a hollow chamber that contains blood vessels and nerves, is found inside every tooth. Dentin, a strong, yellowish material that makes up most of the tooth’s structure, surrounds this pulp. 

The dentin is covered in enamel, which acts as a barrier to protect the tooth—that is, everything except the roots that are tucked away inside the jawbone. Generally speaking, enamel is white and somewhat translucent.

External Changes to Tooth Color

Understanding the factors that affect the exterior surface of enamel can help prevent teeth from darkening over time. Here are two key contributors:

Surface Staining: 

Dark pigments from foods and beverages can stick to the enamel, causing external staining, also known as extrinsic staining. Common culprits include coffee, tea, and tobacco products. The degree of staining varies depending on the texture of the enamel. Smooth enamel is less prone to stains compared to rough, pitted enamel.

Enamel Thinning: 

Thinning enamel can alter tooth color by revealing more of the underlying yellow dentin. Enamel is naturally white and somewhat see-through. Acid erosion is a big reason why enamel gets thin. It happens a lot when you drink acidic stuff like sodas, fruit juices, and sports drinks a ton. Severe acid reflux or GERD can also chip in. Sadly, enamel can’t grow back once it’s gone, so you’ll need dental work to fix it up.

Internal Changes

Teeth can darken or become more yellow due to changes inside the teeth. While you can’t prevent these changes, understanding them can help you address them with your dentist to achieve the white smile you want.

Natural Aging: 

Unfortunately, teeth naturally get yellower as we age. This happens because the inner part of teeth, called dentin, gets thicker over time. Dentin thickens as teeth go through years of chewing wear and tear. As dentin gets thicker and yellower, it shows through the enamel, which is somewhat see-through, giving teeth an overall yellowish tint.

Effects of Trauma: 

Injuries to teeth can also cause changes inside them. After a severe injury, the nerve and blood vessels inside a tooth might react in two ways. They might shrink and close off, making the tooth look dark grey or yellow. Or they might grow and dissolve the tooth from the inside out, giving it a purple or pinkish appearance due to blood vessels showing through. This process is called internal resorption.

Stains That Respond Well to Teeth Whitening

Teeth stains come in various forms, from everyday coffee or wine stains to more stubborn discoloration. While over-the-counter products like toothpaste or strips can help with common stains, they often fall short for more stubborn discoloration. For these, professional teeth whitening treatments are your best bet.

Surface stains caused by tea, smoking, coffee, and sauces can usually be removed effectively with professional whitening treatments. These treatments contain powerful whitening agents not typically found in over-the-counter products. However, it’s important to remember that surface whitening treatments may not work well on teeth with crowns, bonding, or porcelain veneers.

Types of Teeth Stains

To effectively whiten your teeth, it’s important to understand the type of staining you have. Here are the two main types:

Intrinsic Stains: 

These stains are inside your tooth enamel and can be present even before your teeth emerge. They can result from antibiotic use, high fluoride exposure, thinning enamel with age, or even genetic factors.

Extrinsic Stains:

Extrinsic stains are on the outside of your teeth and come from things like coffee, artificial food colorings, and smoking. Antibiotics can also play a role in their development.

Whitening Options:

You’ve got choices for whitening your teeth, like whitening toothpaste or sessions with your dentist. Some products target surface stains, while others tackle both surface and deeper stains.

Many treatments use hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to reduce stains, but be careful—they can be harsh. Follow the instructions and talk to your dentist if you have any issues.

Common Causes of Tooth Discoloration

Now that you grasp why teeth discolor, this list of common culprits will make sense. It’ll also guide you in making choices to prevent yellowing.

Food and drink

What we eat and drink significantly impacts tooth color. Besides steering clear of dark-colored substances, it’s essential to consider the pH of your diet. Avoiding acidic foods and drinks helps preserve enamel thickness, keeping your teeth looking whiter.

Tobacco Stains on Teeth

The dark particles in all types of tobacco collect as external stains on the teeth. In particular, smoking has a drying effect on the inside of the mouth. This dryness worsens the staining ability of tobacco because it makes adherence to the enamel easier. (Imagine the stickiness of a dry mouth attracting stains on the teeth.)

Effects of Aging on Tooth Color

Aging is one factor we can’t escape, but we can combat the natural yellowing inside the tooth by safeguarding our enamel on the outside. Avoiding acidic diets, addressing any acid reflux issues, and regularly using fluoride oral care products help strengthen enamel, preserving a brighter smile.

Preventing Tooth Trauma

While not all trauma can be avoided, wearing an athletic mouthguard during contact sports can prevent some injuries. Mouthguards cushion the impact on teeth, reducing the force by absorbing it.

Impact of Medications on Tooth Color

Certain medications can alter tooth color during their development, especially in pregnant mothers and young children. Avoiding medications like Tetracycline and other antibiotics known to affect tooth formation is crucial. The dark colors integrated during tooth development lead to intrinsic staining. Additionally, prescription mouth rinses containing the antibiotic Chlorhexidine can cause external stains on teeth.

Professional Teeth Whitening in Hacienda Heights, CA

how does teeth whitening work

Now that you have a better understanding of how teeth whitening works, you’re on your way to achieving a brighter, more confident smile. If you’re ready to take the next step and enhance your smile, book an appointment with us at Hacienda Dentistry in Hacienda Heights, CA.

Our comprehensive dental services include teeth whitening, dental implants, Invisalign, veneers, crowns, and much more. Contact us at (626) 330-4548 to schedule your appointment today and start your journey towards a healthier, brighter smile!