Tooth enamel is an incredibly hard and durable substance. In fact, the enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body. But it does have weaknesses. Among them is the propensity to stain when we eat and drink certain foods and beverages: coffee, tea, red wine, various berries, even dark chocolate! Plus, simple aging yellows our teeth. This combination can make our teeth dingy and yellow — it can get to the point where you may subconsciously avoid smiling or otherwise showing your teeth.
At Dr. Gonzalez’s practice, we offer in-office and take-home teeth whitening to put the gleam back in your smile.
What is teeth whitening?
The goal of teeth whitening is to bring the teeth back to their natural whiteness, removing the stains that have accumulated, causing the patient’s teeth to become dingy and dull looking. Dr. Gonzalez offers two options for our teeth whitening: in-office and at-home whitening. Our in-office treatments take about one hour, and they whiten your teeth many shades. Our at-home treatments involve the creation of custom trays to fit your teeth, along with professional-grade whitening gel to place in the trays and apply at home.
What causes teeth to become stained?
Most people have never heard this, but, like your fingerprints, your tooth enamel color is unique to you. The color varies slightly for every person. Some enamel starts a little bit darker, and some seem to stain more easily. The good part about this is that most staining occurs in the enamel, the outer layer of the tooth. These stains can be removed with whitening agents.
There is another type of staining that occurs in the dentin, the inner portion of the tooth. This staining usually is the result of a drug reaction — tetracycline is the main culprit here — and it cannot be whitened. The way to cover this type of staining is with porcelain veneers, which cover the front portion of the teeth.
These are typical reasons your teeth become stained:
- Foods — Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, even dark chocolate all contain pigments that can make their way into tooth enamel.
- Drinks — Coffee, tea, red wine, darker fruit juices, and cola drinks leave stains.
- Smoking — Nicotine makes the enamel yellow.
- Genes — Darker enamel tones are usually passed on from your parents.
- Drugs — Tetracycline, a popular antibiotic used especially in the 60s, was found to react and make the dentin in teeth grey in children. There are now recommendations to not use tetracycline with children due to this problem.
- Fluorosis — If a person has too much fluoride, or if it is ingested, it can cause fluorosis, which stains the teeth a grey color.
Who is a good candidate for teeth whitening with Dr. Gonzalez?
Teeth whitening really only works on stains in the enamel layer of your teeth. You may have heard claims touting whitening of interior staining, but these claims are dubious at best. If your teeth are dingy from food and drink, or maybe from smoking, our in-office and at-home whitening treatments will remove the stains and whiten your teeth dramatically.
However, if your staining is in the dentin layer of the teeth, caused by either a drug reaction when you were a child or from trauma to a tooth, teeth whitening will not remove this grey staining. It is too deep in the tooth for the whitening gel to penetrate. Really the only way to whiten this type of staining is to apply porcelain veneers to the front side of all of your stained teeth. If you have just a single tooth that has turned grey from trauma, a porcelain crown can be placed over the tooth to change its color. Crowns can also mask cosmetic issues.
How is in-office teeth whitening done?
For our in-office teeth whitening, we start with a shade guide to establishing a “before” benchmark. Next, we cover your gums. We then paint our hydrogen peroxide gel onto each tooth by hand. This ensures even, complete coverage. Next, we activate the whitening gel by applying a special light across the teeth. This does so without irritating the nerves and causing tooth sensitivity. The gel is then removed. If you have more involved staining, we can repeat the procedure a second time for full whitening. In-office whitening takes about one hour in our beautiful Santa Rosa offices.
How does at-home whitening work?
If you prefer to whiten your teeth at home, Dr. Gonzalez offers custom trays and professional-strength peroxide gel. This is stronger gel than you’ll find in over-the-counter whitening strips or other products. For our at-home whitening, we also start with a shade guide. We then take impressions of your teeth to use to make custom bleaching trays that precisely fit your teeth.
When your trays are finished you return for a brief second visit and we check the trays for fit. Then we give you detailed instructions on how you will use your trays and our special whitening gel at home. When home, you will put the whitening gel into the trays and wear them for 30 minutes to one hour for a period of one to two weeks, depending on how much whitening you need.
Before you place the trays in your mouth, you’ll need to brush and floss your teeth. Obviously, you can’t eat or drink anything while the trays are in your mouth, but also for 30 minutes after removing them. The same goes for smoking.
Will teeth whitening make my teeth more sensitive? Does it damage my teeth?
We all like our coffee, tea, berries, and red wine. That probably explains why teeth whitening is popular the world over. The procedure is approved by the FDA and has proven to be very safe. There has not been a single case in the U.S. of structural damage to the teeth caused by approved, dentist-provided whitening programs. This applies to professional in-office and at-home whitening. That is why you should trust only the team at Dr. Gonzales’s to provide the necessary gels, trays, and gel activators to get your teeth as white as they can be.
People sometimes assume the sensitivity that can come after teeth whitening is a sign of tooth damage, but that’s not the case. The hydrogen peroxide gel simply needs to penetrate the enamel layer of your teeth to break loose the staining particles. This penetration can create some sensitivity for a day or two, but this sensitivity passes.
How long will my teeth stay white?
All we can say here is, “It depends.” If you continue to eat those raspberries and drink your coffee and red wine, your teeth will stain again. You can mitigate some of the stainings by drinking some of these liquids through a straw to bypass the teeth, but who really wants to do that? You can also drink a little water after you have coffee or red wine to wash away some of the pigment that wants to adhere to your enamel. Depending on these things, your teeth whitening at Dr. Gonzalez’s should look great for up to two years. To prolong your results, if you’ve used at-home whitening, we can provide some more gel. Of course, if you’ve had in-office whitening, when you feel your teeth are becoming a little dingy, simply come see us again and in an hour your smile will be bright and white.
Schedule Your Consultation Today
Dr. Darren Gonzalez provides professional teeth whitening treatments to enhance your smile. With professional whitening, you can once again enjoy a brilliant, beautiful smile. Both in-office and take-home whitening treatments are available. Call us today at 707-509-0569 to schedule your appointment with our dentist and team and learn more about teeth whitening in Santa Rosa, California.