Teeth naturally discolor over time even with daily brushing and flossing. As we age the enamel layer of the teeth can become worn and more transparent, allowing the yellow color of the next layer of the tooth, or dentin, to show through. Tiny cracks may also develop that can fill with debris resulting in a dingy, dull appearance.
Causes of Tooth Staining
- Age – Normal wear and the accumulation of stains can darken the teeth and make you look older. Although tooth whitening becomes more of a challenge as we age it can be effective at any stage of life.
- Natural Tooth Color – Normal teeth can range in color from yellowish to grayish. If your natural tooth color is in the yellowish range, you are likely a good candidate for professional teeth whitening. It’s more of a challenge to whiten grayish teeth.
- Opaqueness – All teeth have a certain level of opacity. The more opaque the tooth, the easier it is to whiten. Very transparent teeth do not respond well to tooth whitening, so bonding or porcelain veneers are probably best.
- Diet – Your diet is likely the biggest contributor to the staining of your teeth. Red wine, coffee, tea, cola, or other dark colored beverages are most likely to stain the teeth. Very acidic foods such as citrus fruit or vinegar are also culprits because they can make the surface of the tooth porous and allow more of the dentin to show through.
- Smoking – Smoking is one of the leading causes of brown stains. Nicotine can penetrate deep into the tooth making it very difficult to achieve desirable tooth whitening results. You’ll be required to stop smoking prior to any whitening procedure and remain smoke-free thereafter. We have had great success using professional tooth whitening techniques for many patients with nicotine stains.
- Chemicals – Some antibiotics, can cause grey stains if used during the formation of adult teeth. Whitening these discolorations can be difficult, but may be attempted before more invasive procedures.
- Tooth Grinding – Many people grind their teeth at night which in and of itself doesn’t cause stains, but it can cause tiny cracks to form allowing for the accumulation of tooth staining debris. Furthermore, as the enamel is worn away, the darker dentin shows through. It may be strongly suggested that you address the cause of the grinding before investing in cosmetic procedures as more costly issues may develop if the behavior is left unaddressed.
- Injury to the Teeth – Large cracks in teeth caused by trauma also are a cause of excessive staining. Teeth whitening techniques may prove to be a great solution for these types of stains.
Teeth Whitening Procedure
Your dentist will determine if you are a viable candidate for this procedure through a thorough oral exam, including a shade assessment. Active gum disease, decay, or dental pathology must be corrected prior to beginning the whitening process. A cleaning is often recommended, and at times required, prior to whitening to allow the treatment to penetrate deeper and more evenly. This cleaning and the whitening procedure will remove the debris and stains but will not repair the cracks; therefore, whitening touch-ups will be necessary. Tooth-colored restorations such as fillings, crowns, or a removable partial denture with teeth that are visible will not lighten in shade with whitening. You may need to replace or modify these restorations after whitening.
It has been estimated that ninety-seven percent of patients who whiten their teeth have successful results; however, it is impossible to predict the results the degree of whitening each patient might expect prior to treatment. Research suggests that teeth have a limit to how white they can become and further whitening beyond this point will have no noticeable effect. The results achieved may remain satisfactory for approximately three to seven years depending upon your eating and drinking habits. Although some people experience slight, temporary sensitivity the procedure does not damage the teeth when used properly.
Today there are a number of different effective teeth whitening options to refresh your smile. the difference between at-home and in-office whitening lies in how long it takes to achieve results and the amount of shade control the patient prefers. At-home or tray whitening kits are very effective and allow you to whiten your teeth to the shade you desire; however, they require more of a time commitment. The in-office whitening procedure is convenient and quickly lightens your teeth in one visit resulting in an instantly radiant smile.
Getting Ready for Whitening
Zoom teeth whitening is an in-office procedure. The Zoom whitening procedure itself takes forty-five minutes to an hour, but please plan for the entire appointment to take about 90 minutes. We require a full dental cleaning and exam prior to a whitening treatment. If you have not had a cleaning in the last six months, please schedule your cleaning first! If you are new to us and have had your teeth cleaned somewhere else in the last six months, please bring documentation with you to your appointment.
We recommend using a sensitivity toothpaste for two weeks prior to whitening to reduce sensitivity during and after the procedure. Please be sure to take 800mg ibuprofen 1 hour prior to your whitening appointment.
What to Expect During the Procedure
We will check your teeth and determine your starting teeth shade. We will make note of this and take a picture to track your progress. We start the procedure with protecting your gums and soft tissue. We will put in cheek retractors and cotton rolls which will keep your top and bottom teeth from touching each other. Then we isolate your teeth and gums by applying a special material around the gum line and onto the gums. This will keep the powerful bleaching material off of your sensitive gums, so it’s important to be thorough in this step.
Next, we put a layer of the Zoom whitening agent on your teeth (front surfaces only), and set the laser light in front of your teeth. A full Zoom whitening procedure consists of three 15-minute sessions. (If your starting shade is darker than a C2, a fourth session may be used.) After each session, we may add more whitening agent, or adjust the light. We’ll check the progress to see how your teeth are doing. Some sessions go so well that some folks choose to end early so their teeth don’t get blindingly white. Others will go the full time. When your time is up, we’ll remove all the whitening agent, cotton, and cheek retractors. While we can’t guarantee a particular result or shade, many patients see a change of several shades and everyone is pleased with the results.
Zingers: In order to do its job, the whitening agent temporarily dissolves a very thin layer that covers your enamel, called the “pellicle.” That layer is what protects your teeth from being overly sensitive to everyday activities. Some people experience “zingers” during and/or after their whitening sessions. Zingers feel like small electric shocks around your teeth and gums. We can not guarantee if you’ll get zingers or even how many you’ll get. They usually last a couple of hours after the procedure. They bother some patients more than others, and the effect of zingers can usually be muted by taking some ibuprofen before your appointment. Everyone that has experienced these zingers has stated that they were worth it!
What to Expect After Whitening
Be sure to follow the post-procedure instructions! We will give you a list of everything to avoid for 48 hours after whitening so you don’t stain those freshly whitened teeth! Just assume if it’s red, dark, spicy, or savory, you probably can’t eat or drink it. And absolutely no smoking! Enjoy your beautiful new smile!
Opalescence Take-Home Whitening kits allow you to get professional whitening results at your convenience in a safe, effective, and customized way! Opalescence tooth whitening gel is formulated with potassium nitrate and fluoride to prevent dehydration and shade relapse. With custom-fit trays that can be worn day or night, Opalescence is a great option for whitening and touch-ups at home.
Cost: $149 (includes custom trays and take home whitening gel)
Contact Central Dental
Our doctors and team members at Central Dental in Little Rock or Conway will work with you to provide a customized treatment plan for your smile.