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Teeth Whitening 101

Updated: Apr 3


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Teeth Whitening 101

Teeth Whitening 101: The outer layer of teeth is composed of a substance called enamel. Enamel is porous, meaning that it absorbs stains from foods and drinks. Teeth whitening is the process of removing stains from the enamel. Teeth whitening products contain peroxide, which penetrates the enamel and breaks up the stains. As a result, the stains are lifted off the surface of the teeth.


Who Can Have Teeth Whitening?

With today’s advanced dental technology, teeth whitening procedures have become some of the most popular and well-known cosmetic treatments. Teeth whitening patients are typically healthy adults and teens with healthy teeth and gums. Some patients experience tooth sensitivity after whitening treatments. In this case, patients can opt for take-home whitening trays or fluoride treatments.


Patients considering teeth whitening treatments should consult with a dentist regarding tooth sensitivity. A dentist can recommend whitening alternatives that are appropriate for the patient’s needs.


Why You Need Professional Teeth Whitening

There are many reasons people want to whiten their smile. Many do it before a major life event, like their wedding or graduation – after all, you want your smile to be the best it can be for all of those photos! Some people do it to give their confidence a boost. Just quit smoking or drinking coffee? Get a teeth whitening treatment and leave those stains behind along with your habit! Some do it as a part of their regular dental visits, so their mouth will look as good as it feels.

Nowadays, there are many at home treatments available to whiten your teeth. However, when I tried a couple of these for myself, I found the results to be less than stellar. The strips were difficult to apply evenly to my teeth. They stuck in some areas, but failed to adhere in others, and tiny bubbles of air became trapped under the surface. The result was a patchwork of white spots on my teeth, with large areas of stained tooth remaining – not what I was going for! What’s more, the white areas made me realize (and made it painfully visible) how discolored the rest of my teeth were. After several treatments the spots began to even out somewhat, but not before I spent a week walking around with a pretty strange looking smile.


Professional Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening performed by a dental professional is the gold standard of whitening treatments. It has two decisive advantages over all at-home treatments: precision and power. The bleaching agents used in professional teeth whitening are more concentrated than anything available over the counter. You might wonder if the bleaching agents are the strongest, what prevents them from causing pain and discomfort? That’s where the precision comes into play. First, a dentist treats any tooth decay or fissures that would allow the bleaching agent to infiltrate the teeth and cause the patient pain. Next, they use custom fitted whitening trays to ensure that the bleaching agent only goes where it’s supposed to be – the surface of your teeth.


How does professional teeth whitening work?

Professional grade teeth whitening products can correct many types of tooth discoloration, including those caused by staining, aging, and exposure to chemicals. It’s also completely safe for the structure of your teeth and existing dental work.

On your first visit, our team will take an impression of your teeth. The impression is then used to create a set of perfectly fitted, custom whitening trays. Your trays will be ready in just a day.

When you pick up your trays you’ll also receive the whitening solution, along with instructions on how to use both. With only a few hours of teeth whitening per day with the trays and solution, you’ll start to see rapid improvement in the whiteness of your smile. You can use the trays to whiten as much as you want – once you’ve reached your desired whiteness, only occasional treatments will be necessary to maintain it long term. At your next appointment, we will take “after” photos of your beautiful new smile!

There are some cases where stains are too severe for bleaching to remove. In these cases, a more drastic treatment like veneers of crowns might be necessary. However, due to the relative ease and low cost of bleaching compared to these procedures, it’s best to give bleaching a shot first even on an extreme discoloration.


Advantages of Teeth Whitening

  • Whiter teeth Teeth whitening can brighten your smile. Discoloration of your teeth can be caused by staining, aging, or chemical damage to your teeth. Discoloration can also make your smile look dull and sallow. Whitening your teeth can make your smile look more youthful. You may also feel more positive about your appearance.


  • Improved appearance Teeth whitening is one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve your appearance. Even teeth that have been stained by red wine or coffee or that have turned a shade of yellow with age can look brighter and whiter. While your whitening results will not be permanent, they can last up to two years with proper care.


  • Better oral hygiene There are many benefits of teeth whitening. One is that it increases your level of oral hygiene. When your teeth become stained, it’s difficult to keep them clean. In fact, when a tooth is discolored, it will appear yellow or brown. Unfortunately, these colors actually attract bacteria and plaque. So, if you wish to whiten your teeth, you’re actually helping to improve your oral hygiene.


  • Improved self-esteem If you feel self-conscious about your smile, teeth whitening can help you feel more confident. Teeth whitening can be a simple way to boost your self-esteem and allow you to smile more freely. While teeth whitening cannot change serious dental problems, it can provide a quick confidence boost.


  • Preserved youthful appearance Among the reasons why people seek teeth whitening is to preserve their youthful appearance. A bright, white smile looks young and healthy and can help hide years of wear and tear. While teeth naturally become discolored over time, some foods and drinks can accelerate this process such as coffee, red wine and soda.


  • More appealing smile People have compared teeth whitening to getting a new haircut or buying new clothes. When you come to our office for teeth whitening, you can look forward to improved self-esteem and a boost in confidence.


Types Of Teeth Whitening

  • In-Office Teeth Whitening In-office teeth whitening uses the strongest type of peroxide gel and a special light to help whiten teeth up to eight shades in just one visit. The dentist will apply the gel to your teeth and shine the light on your teeth to activate the bleaching agent. The entire procedure only takes about an hour!

  • Custom-Fitted Stent When you come in to Dr. Snyder's office for teeth whitening, the first step is to take a mold of your teeth. Using this mold, Dr. Snyder will create a custom-fitted stent, which you can pick up the next day. You’ll also receive the bleaching solution and instructions on how to use them together. The stent will ensure even application of the compound to your teeth. Wear your stent a few hours a day and you’ll start seeing results right away. Once you reach the shade you’re looking for, occasional treatments will be enough to maintain your new, brilliant smile. In cases of more extreme tooth discoloration, veneers and crowns are also available. However, due to the low cost and high effectiveness of bleaching, it is typically a logical first step.

  • At-Home Teeth Whitening In-home teeth whitening is a do-it-yourself treatment that you can perform in the comfort of your own home. Your dentist will send you home with a custom-fitted mouth tray and whitening gel. You will apply the gel to the trays and wear them at night or for a few hours during the day. You will repeat this process until you reach your desired results.

  • Teeth whitening mouthwashes and toothpastes These over the counter products, available at your local grocery or drug store, represent the slowest and often least effective means for whitening. This is because the bleaching agents they employ are more diluted than other treatments. Some of these products have legions of satisfied customers, while others have little or no effect. They are designed to gradually whiten the smile over a period of months or years. However, despite their low concentration of bleaching agents, some people with sensitive teeth or gums may experience discomfort or even pain when using teeth whitening mouthwashes or toothpastes. If you try one of these products and it’s painful, it’s best to set it aside and choose another option that is safer for you. For the majority of patients, these products wont cause any pain.

  • At-home bleaching treatments for teeth whitening These treatments represent the next step up in the whitening continuum of force. They employ more highly concentrated bleaching agents than the ones found in whitening mouthwashes and toothpastes.

  • Over the counter bleaching treatments are typically applied for a few to several hours, and a complete course of whitening requires a few weeks of such treatments. While this is fast compared to whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes, it’s slower than professional teeth whitening with the help of a dentist. Another drawback of over the counter bleaching treatments is that since they use stronger chemicals than whitening mouthwashes and toothpastes, they cause pain and discomfort for a larger percentage of patients. However, like whitening mouthwashes and toothpastes, the majority of patients can use them without pain.


How Do Teeth Stain?

  • Oral Hygiene Stained teeth are very common. White teeth are attractive, but people’s lifestyles often collide. Coffee, wine, and tobacco are some of the most common staining agents. But, other lifestyle habits can also cause teeth to turn yellow as well. Stains on teeth are hard to remove. The best way to avoid having stained teeth is to take care of your teeth. Brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day can help prevent stains. By removing food particles and plaque, you can help prevent teeth from yellowing and staining.

  • Foods and Drinks Foods and beverages such as coffee, tea, soda, wine, berries, and dark sauces can contribute to teeth staining. Some foods may even contain high levels of acid that can erode enamel. This can expose teeth to stains and discoloration. If you’re concerned about the stains on your teeth, talk to your dentist about whitening options. Professional whitening can lift stains and discoloration from your teeth so you can have a whiter and brighter smile.

  • Tobacco Tobacco use causes a variety of oral health problems, and teeth stains are one of the results. If you smoke or chew tobacco, your teeth will become yellow or brown in color. In addition to discoloration, tobacco use can also cause teeth staining and bad breath. Smokers are more likely to have yellow teeth than non-smokers. The nicotine and the tar in cigarettes and cigars cause yellow or brown stains on your teeth. If you smoke, try to avoid smoking near other people. Cigarette smoke can stain their teeth as well as your own.

  • Medications Some people have stains on their teeth due to medications. Discolored teeth are a common side effect of various medications.

  • Genetics Genetics can play a role in your risk for tooth discoloration. If your parents or other family members have natural yellow or brown stains on their teeth, you are more likely to experience the same thing. Additionally, if your parents experienced tooth loss due to decay, you are more likely to develop a similar condition.


What Type Of Medications Stain Teeth?

Here are some different types of medications that may cause discoloration:

  1. Antibiotics Antibiotics may temporarily discolor teeth in children. This is a harmless side effect caused by the child’s immature enamel.

  2. Antihistamines Antihistamines may temporarily discolor a child’s teeth. Consult with a physician before your child takes these medications.

  3. Antipsychotics Antipsychotics may cause discolored teeth in a child. Discuss this side effect with a physician before your child takes this medication.

  4. Antithyroid medications Antithyroid medications may cause discolored teeth. Consult with a physician before your child takes this medication.

  5. Anticonvulsants Anticonvulsants may cause a harmless gray or yellow discoloration to a child’s teeth. Consult with a physician before your child takes this medication.


To find out more about the dental services offered by our dentist in Albuquerque NM, Dr. Snyder, call (505)-293-7611, schedule an online consultation or visit us at 4830 Juan Tabo Blvd. NE, Ste. K, Albuquerque, NM, 87111.


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