Even though supermarket shelves are groaning under the weight of hundreds of whitening treatments and products, teeth whitening is most effective when carried out by your dentist. Not only does a dentist have technology at their disposal, but they are experts at creating beautiful white smiles. But have you ever wondered how the magic happens? Carry on reading, and you’ll find out.
So, how does teeth whitening work?
We’re going to jump into the science that lies behind professional teeth whitening treatments and also give you some tips on prolonging its effects. But first, let’s talk about how teeth become stained by the foods and beverages we consume.
The make-up of tooth enamel
You may have read that tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body, but did you know tooth enamel is porous?
The structure of tooth enamel is such that it contains millions of crystal ‘rods’ packed tightly together, which to the naked eye, give the illusion of a smooth rigid surface. The rods have millions of organic molecules that reflect the light, giving tooth enamel its distinctive luminosity.
When we drink certain colourful foods and beverages, particularly those chemical compounds containing tannins and chromogens, they are absorbed through the pores and seep into the rods, effectively blocking the light reflecting molecules, causing the teeth to appear stained.
So how does teeth whitening work?
All teeth whitening products contain carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, which themselves contain highly volatile oxygen molecules. When these oxygen molecules contact the teeth, a chemical reaction occurs that breaks down the chemical compounds attached to the organic molecules, allowing them to reflect the light once more. This process gives the teeth a whiter, brighter appearance.
Do all whitening treatments work the same way?
Well, yes and no!
Take whitening toothpaste, for example. This substance is abrasive and helps remove surface stains from tooth enamel that would be hard to remove with regular toothpaste. It typically contains a range of course ingredients such as silica that literally scrub the tooth enamel. Many brands of whitening contain low concentrations of carbamide or hydrogen peroxide to aid teeth whitening. Some include a chemical known as blue covarine that creates an optical illusion of whiter looking teeth.
Toothpaste containing covarine can have immediate results, whereas toothpaste containing other whitening ingredients may take months before any noticeable difference.
So how does teeth whitening work with other over the counter products?
They contain many of the same ingredients as professional teeth whitening treatments, with the difference being that peroxide concentrations are considerably lower. Therefore it takes far longer to whiten the teeth, and generally, the results are not as effective or as long-lasting as professional teeth whitening.
Why visit dentists for teeth whitening?
A dentist has the experience to know whether it is safe for a patient to undergo whitening treatments. It could be a person has cavities or gum disease, which will cause heightened sensitivity when the bleaching agent is applied. This being the case, the dentist will recommend that these issues be treated before undergoing teeth whitening.
Also, some people don’t realise that whitening treatments cannot change the colour of restorations such as fillings, veneers and dental crowns. Whitening treatments only work on tooth enamel and not artificial materials. If you are concerned about discolouration, your dentist can recommend other solutions.
How does teeth whitening system work at My Local Dentists?
Our dentists use the Philips Zoom teeth whitening system, which is reliable and proven to lighten teeth by up to 8 shades.
A consultation is required to ensure that teeth whitening is a suitable treatment for you. If you happen to have teeth that don’t respond to whitening treatments, dental veneers may be a better option and give you a permanently white smile.
Our dentist completes in-chair whitening with Zoom in one hour. Just imagine walking into the dental clinic with faded teeth and stepping out with a gleaming white smile. It’s the perfect cosmetic treatment to fit into your lunch break.
So now you know how whitening treatments work, how can you prolong the effects and keep your smile looking brighter for longer
Brushing twice a day and flossing will keep your smile brighter and cleaner, as will getting a professional clean twice a year from your dentist.
While professional whitening treatments should last up to 12 months, the results will fade sooner unless you limit your intake of stain-causing foods and stop smoking. Otherwise, consider brushing your teeth after every meal or rinsing your mouth with water.
Love your smile
If you’re unhappy with the appearance or colour of your smile, then why not schedule a consultation with the team at My Local Dentists. We can discuss your best options to help you achieve a whiter, healthier-looking smile you will love.