While we all want to have movie-star good looks, as your dentist, I can only help with your teeth. The process of aging, diet, and inadequate dental hygiene can result in teeth that are discolored. Fortunately, teeth whitening in Boise is a quick and effective way to improve your smile and roll back the effects of time.
Our teeth become discolored for two primary reasons.
Teeth are kind of like your grades in high school; they begin perfect and they can either be maintained or neglected. We start out with sparkling white teeth, which have a surface made of enamel, a very hard, porcelain-like white material. Enamel is a thin armor that protects the teeth from the rigors of chewing and the composition of our foods, but it can be chipped or worn down.
Inside of that outer shell is the meat of your tooth, most of which is made from dentin. Dentin is naturally light yellow in color. When the translucent enamel wears down, the yellow dentin underneath it starts to show through.
The second way teeth can lose their luster is by being stained. Microscopic cracks routinely occur in enamel, and certain substances are able to fill those cracks, gradually changing the color of your teeth.
What Causes Tooth Stains?
There are a variety of factors that can affect the color of your teeth. In no particular order:
Genetics: Just like your DNA affects your hair color, genes also help determine the natural shades of color in your teeth. That means that some people can’t have perfectly white teeth without treatment; some people have natural shades of yellow, grey, and even green. Some folks even have teeth that are nearly translucent, which means there is little pigment to whiten in the first place.
Age: Teeth have to last a long time, particularly if they aren’t well cared for. That’s more time for enamel to be worn down, more time for stains to accumulate, more time for chemical damage to accumulate, darkening your teeth.
Diet: Diet plays a huge role on oral health. Besides the issue of tooth decay, certain foods or beverages can be responsible staining your teeth or eroding the enamel that protects them. Foods like coffee, soda, berries, and red wine can discolor teeth, while acidic beverages or foods can contribute to enamel erosion. Even if the foods are healthy, the way to protect your teeth is to limit exposure time and commit to a consistent oral hygiene regimen.
Smoking: Teeth might seem solid, but on a microscopic level they are like sponges. They have tiny pores and accumulate microscopic cracks that are able to absorb colors. Smoking can darken your teeth, in addition to posing other significant health risks.
Grinding/Trauma: Your teeth might be covered by enamel, which is stronger than steel, but they can still be damaged. Part of the problem comes from the fact that your top teeth are just as strong as your bottom teeth, and when you grind them together, you create microscopic cracks in the enamel, allowing stains to penetrate (or worse).
Are home whitening systems effective?
Home whitening systems, whether they be trays, strips, or gels, incorporate low-dose bleaching agents that can take weeks to show a visible effect. They can be useful for touch-ups and maintenance, but they aren’t great for someone who wants to make an impactful difference in their appearance.
There are many types of at-home kits. Some contain peroxide-based bleaching agents that work on surface stains, but those contain only a fraction of prescription whiteners used by dentists. Other whitening products use physical abrasion or chemical action to remove surface stains, similar to sanding a table to reveal the natural finish underneath the wood stains.
There are also at-home whitening kits that utilize LED lights, capitalizing on patients that have seen lights used in the dentist’s office. However, it’s UV light that is used to accelerate the action of whitening agents, and those can only be used by dentists. LED lights won’t do anything to whiten your teeth.
Professional whitening means that you get the good stuff, administered by experts. Chair-side treatment is not only the safest form of whitening, but it yields results that are visible immediately.
What to Expect During Teeth Whitening in Boise
Teeth whitening is a simple process, and patients should expect no discomfort or pain. Sometimes teeth are a little sensitive afterwards, but that is simply due to teeth being dehydrated (even your teeth need water!) and being less effective at insulating their nerves from temperature change. That’s normal, and it will subside within a day or two.
Here’s what the whitening process generally looks like:
- A retractor is inserted into the patient’s mouth, exposing the teeth to be treated. We also use a rubber dam or resin on gum tissue, which protects against and irritation that might be caused by the treatment gel.
- A treatment gel, usually containing hydrogen peroxide, is applied to teeth. We’ll keep it on there for up to 30 minutes.
- The treatment gel is washed off, and we rinse and repeat with fresh gel for an additional treatment period. Between gel applications, the teeth are checked to see how well they have whitened, and whether more bleach needs to be applied.
- A special UV light might be used to accelerate the whitening process.
- After the final application, the cheek retractors are removed and the mouth is rinsed. We’ll measure the amount of change in color during treatment, which is usually 3-8 shades out of a possible 16 shades.
For best results, we recommend a cleaning prior to whitening. Schedule a consultation with our Boise dental team to get started on your whitening treatment.