Your smile is one of the first things other people notice when they meet you. You can look and feel confident, healthy, and youthful with cosmetic dentistry from Dr. Chiles. With a number of advanced treatment options, your smile can look amazing in as little as a single visit!
Tooth whitening (or bleaching) is a simple, non-invasive dental treatment used to change the color of natural tooth enamel and is an ideal way to enhance the beauty of your smile.
Because having whiter teeth has now become the number one aesthetic concern of most patients, there are a number of ways to whiten teeth. The most popular method is using a home teeth whitening system that will whiten teeth dramatically. Since teeth whitening only works on natural tooth enamel, it is important to evaluate replacement of any old fillings, crowns, etc. Replacement of any restorations will be done after bleaching so they will match the newly bleached teeth.
Teeth whitening is not permanent. A touch-up may be needed every several years, and more often if you smoke, drink coffee, tea, or wine.
Thinking about teeth whitening? Get the facts first. Here are five of the most commonly asked questions about the process.
Why Did My Teeth Change Color?
Over time, your teeth can go from white to not-so-bright for a number of reasons:
Food and Drink
Coffee, tea and red wine are some major staining culprits. What do they have in common? Intense color pigments called chromogens that attach to the white, outer part of your tooth (enamel).
Two chemicals found in tobacco create stubborn stains: Tar and nicotine. Tar is naturally dark. Nicotine is colorless until it’s mixed with oxygen. Then, it turns into a yellowish, surface-staining substance.
Below the hard, white outer shell of your teeth (enamel) is a softer area called dentin. Over time, the outer enamel layer gets thinner with brushing and more of the yellowish dentin shows through.
If you’ve been hit in the mouth, your tooth may change color because it reacts to an injury by laying down more dentin, which is a darker layer under the enamel.
Tooth darkening can be a side effect of certain antihistamines, antipsychotics and high blood pressure medications. Young children who are exposed to antibiotics like tetracycline and doxycycline when their teeth are forming (either in the womb or as a baby) may have discoloration of their adult teeth later in life. Chemotherapy and head and neck radiation can also darken teeth.
How Does Teeth Whitening Work?
Teeth whitening is a simple process. Whitening products contain one of two tooth bleaches (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide). These bleaches break stains into smaller pieces, which makes the color less concentrated and your teeth brighter.
Does Whitening Work on All Teeth?
No, which is why it’s important to talk to your dentist before deciding to whiten your teeth, as whiteners may not correct all types of discoloration. For example, yellow teeth will probably bleach well, brown teeth may not respond as well and teeth with gray tones may not bleach at all. Whitening will not work on caps, veneers, crowns or fillings. It also won’t be effective if your tooth discoloration is caused by medications or a tooth injury.
What Are My Whitening Options?
Talk to your dentist before starting. If you are a candidate, there are two ways to put the shine back in your smile:
This procedure is called chairside bleaching and usually requires only one office visit. The dentist will apply either a protective gel to your gums or a rubber shield to protect your gums. Bleach is then applied to the teeth.
Peroxide-containing whiteners actually bleach the tooth enamel. They typically come in a gel and are placed in a tray that fits on your teeth. You may also use a whitening strip that sticks to your teeth. The concentration of the bleaching agent is lower than what your dentist would use in the office. If you are thinking about using an over-the-counter bleaching kit, discuss options with your dentist and look for one with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. That means it has been tested to be safe and effective for teeth whitening. Get a list of all ADA-Accepted at-home bleaching products.
Are There Any Side Effects from Teeth Whitening?
Some people who use teeth whiteners may experience tooth sensitivity. That happens when the peroxide in the whitener gets through the enamel to the soft layer of dentin and irritates the nerve of your tooth. In most cases the sensitivity is temporary. You can delay treatment, then try again.
Overuse of whiteners can also damage the tooth enamel or gums, so be sure to follow directions and talk to your dentist.
Many of the smile makeovers you see on television or in magazines are the result of porcelain veneers. These custom-made, thin strips of porcelain are adhered to the front of existing teeth to create a natural, beautiful smile. With porcelain veneers customized by Dr. Chiles, you can correct issues like crooked teeth, chipped teeth, gaps in teeth, and discolored teeth. Just a few appointments are all that separate you from the self-confidence that comes from a brilliant smile!
Regardless of what causes unattractive teeth, dental veneers may solve most or even all of your cosmetic dental issues, including:
Worn enamel: Over time, the thin, hard translucent substance covering your teeth (enamel) may become worn, dulled and discolored. Such wear and discoloration may be natural or result from a genetic predisposition. However, it often results from consuming soft drinks, tea or coffee; smoking; using certain medications, etc.
Wear and tear: Teeth naturally wear down as people age. Aged teeth are more likely to have chips, cracks or a generally uneven appearance.
Genetics: Certain people are born with abnormal spacing between their teeth that widens with age.
Uneven teeth: Uneven teeth can result from tooth grinding or general wear and tear.
Are you a Candidate?
The removal of any natural tooth structure is permanent, so Dr. Chiles prefers to offer patients the most minimally invasive options first. If your natural teeth are functionally and aesthetically adequate, veneers may not be an appropriate treatment for you.
However, if you have severely dull or discolored teeth, you may be a good candidate for veneers. They have the added benefit of longevity and a proven ability to enhance the appearance of the mouth, smile and other facial features that are better supported by properly shaped teeth.
To determine if you are a candidate for dental veneers, Dr. Chiles will schedule a preliminary consultation during which your oral health will be evaluated and all available treatment options discussed. Treatment involving tooth preparation is irreversible, so it is important that we discuss any alternatives that provide the same results but with minimal to no removal of tooth structure. If you and Dr. Chiles decide that veneers are the best option, the next step involves a thorough review of treatment details, including preparing your teeth for your specific veneer procedure and what will be necessary for them to look and fit correctly.
During your consultation, you will actively participate in the “smile design process.” By sharing your preferences for the shape, length, width and color of the veneers and the change in the appearance of your smile that you want them to create, you help ensure that your treatment will meet your expectations. It is important that Dr. Chiles understands your objectives when undergoing a veneer procedure.