Dark and discolored teeth are caused by a variety of things. They include aging, superficial stains from drinking coffee, cola and wine, smoking, or from taking medications such as tetracycline, diseases and even genetics. In these times, where we are bombarded on a daily basis with pictures of celebrities and their almost unreal white smiles, a question dentists often get is how the average patient can get their teeth whiter.
While we think of teeth whitening as a modern invention, its roots can actually be traced back almost 4,000 years to Ancient Egypt, where a whitening paste was created using ground pumice stone mixed in wine vinegar. Having white teeth was considered a mark of beauty. This isn’t so different from modern times, though the materials have changed. Popular whitening methods started in the late 1980’s when dentists discovered that peroxide had a whitening effect on teeth. Peroxide had been and still is used as an oral antiseptic to treat the gums. To get the most benefit out of treatment, dentists tried different ways to keep the gel on the gums longer, such as fabricating trays. It became quickly apparent that a side effect of that treatment was that it whitened the teeth. Today, there are many different companies that fabricate whitening gel for in-office as well as at-home use.
In-office whitening is the most predictable method. The dentist paints a peroxide based gel on the teeth, which is then activated with a light for approximately one hour. This will get you up to 10 shades lighter almost instantly. It is safe and effective. Take home whitening can also get you up to 10 shades lighter, but can take two weeks or more to achieve those results. With take home whitening, the dentist first fabricates custom fit trays, so that the gel will adhere to the tooth properly. The gel used at home is carbamide peroxide based which is not as strong as the in-office hydrogen peroxide based gel. This makes it safe for home use, but is why the home treatment takes much longer. Also, you must have the time and motivation to perform the treatments, and you must be consistent as it can take weeks before the final result is achieved. With over-the-counter whitening products, the results are even less predictable and take even longer.
If you have superficial stains, you will have a brighter smile simply by removing those stains with a regular teeth cleanings. If you want your teeth to be even brighter, you need to pursue other methods. It all depends on what you want to achieve. Ask your dentist which method is right for you.
Dr. Herbert Schneider has been recognized for his work with fellowship awards from the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Endodontic Society. He also holds a prestigious Mastership from the World Clinical Laser Institute. Dr. Rachel Jacobs joined the practice in 2006. Her calm, yet precise manner makes her a hit with both adults and children. Both Dr’s are certified in the uses of three different clinical lasers.
By Dr. Herbert Schneider & Dr. Rachel Jacobs