What is Teeth Whitening

Tooth whitening lightens teeth and helps to remove stains and discoloration. Whitening is among the most popular cosmetic dental procedures because it can greatly improve how your teeth look. Most dentists perform tooth whitening. Whitening is not a one-time procedure. It will need to be repeated from time to time if you want to maintain the brighter color.

What It’s Used For


The outer layer of a tooth is called the enamel. The color of natural teeth is created by the reflection and scattering of light off the enamel, combined with the color of the dentin under it. Your genes affect the thickness and smoothness of the enamel. Thinner enamel allows more of the color of the dentin to show through. Having smoother or rougher enamel also affects the reflection of light and therefore the color.
Every day, a thin coating (pellicle) forms on the enamel and picks up stains. Tooth enamel also contains pores that can hold stains.

The most common reasons for teeth to get yellow or stained are:
  • Using tobacco
  • Drinking dark-colored liquids such as coffee, cola, tea and red wine
  • Not taking good care of your teeth

    Aging makes teeth less bright as the enamel gets thinner and the dentin becomes darker.

    It is also possible to have stains inside the tooth. These are called intrinsic stains. For example, intrinsic stains can be caused by exposure to too much fluoride as a child while teeth are developing. Other causes include antibiotics. They can stain a child’s teeth if taken by a mother during the second half of pregnancy or by a child who is 8 years old or younger. Teeth are still developing during these years. Trauma may also darken a tooth.

    Tooth whitening is most effective on surface (extrinsic) stains.

    What to expect during Teeth Whitening


    Preparation

    Other dental problems can affect the success of tooth whitening. For example, cavities need to be treated before teeth are whitened. That’s because the whitening solution can pass through decayed areas and reach the inner parts of the tooth. If your gums have receded, the exposed roots of your teeth may appear yellow or discolored. Whitening products will not make them whiter.

    If you have tooth decay or receding gums, whitening may make your teeth sensitive. Whitening also does not work on ceramic or porcelain crowns or veneers.

    Whitening can be done in the dental office or at home. For in-office whitening, your dentist probably will photograph your teeth first. This step will help him or her to monitor the progress of the treatment. Your dentist also will examine your teeth and ask you questions to find out what caused the staining.

    Next, the dentist or a dental hygienist will clean your teeth. This will remove the film of bacteria, food and other substances that build up on your teeth and contribute to the staining. Once this is done, the whitening procedure begins.

    For whitening at home, your dentist can make trays to hold the whitening gel that fit your teeth precisely. Home whitening gel usually needs to be applied daily for two to three weeks. Over-the-counter kits also are widely available for home use. They provide trays to hold the gel, or whitening strips that stick to your teeth. Talk to your dentist if you want to use these home products. Be sure to follow directions to avoid overuse and possible damage to your teeth and mouth.

    Polishing Pastes for Teeth

    Tooth polishing pastes are called prophy pastes, an abbreviation of prophylaxis that refers to the protective, disease-preventing effects of tooth cleaning and polishing. Dental hygienists choose between fine, medium and coarse pastes to fill the rubber cup that delivers the paste to the tooth surface. Coarse and medium pastes are most effective at removing stains quickly, according to the AAOSH, but they can also scratch and roughen the tooth enamel, thus making it more likely to develop stains later. Fine pastes are less damaging and create a more highly polished finish, but sometimes can be less effective at removing stains. JISP states that the abrasive agents most often used in prophy are calcium carbonate and pumice flour.

    Air Polishing for Teeth

    A review of several studies, published by the Journal of Dental Hygiene, shows that polishing with a jet of air, water and an abrasive agent removes stains more effectively and quickly than polishing with a rubber cup and prophy. What’s more, air polishing is generally less harsh on tooth enamel. Sodium bicarbonate is often used as the abrasive agent in air polishing, but glycine (a naturally-occurring amino acid) is less abrasive and just as effective.

    Tooth Polishing Precautions

    If there is gum recession and there is exposure of the cementum, use of a mild polishing paste may be recommended so that there is no sensitivity to the tooth surface that can occur. If patients have problems like teeth sensitivity, untreated cavities, exposed dentin or roots, and diseased or receding gums, these oral issues should be treated before the teeth are scaled and polished. Finally, patients who should not have their teeth polished include people who have respiratory problems, hypertension, conditions that weaken tooth enamel or allergies to the abrasive agents, according to the Journal of Dental Hygiene. Although tooth polishing isn’t an essential dental treatment, it can help patients feel confident about the look of their teeth and encourage good oral care habits. If your teeth have surface stains, speak to your dentist about whether polishing would help improve their appearance.
  • Head doctors

    • Dr. Ryan Yun

      Dr. Ryan Yun

      10 years experience
      From Korea, Graduated from Australia.

    +65 6227 7708

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