Your teeth serve several functions. The most obvious is that they are used for biting and chewing. Your teeth also help you make certain sounds when you speak. Last but certainly not least, your teeth are also integral to your overall appearance. If your teeth are yellow or have stains, chances are you don’t feel as confident about your smile as you would like. Teeth whitening can help.
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.
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.
Potential Causes that can lead to Stained Teeth
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.
What Does Teeth Whitening Involve?
Teeth become dull and discolored because the enamel, the hard outer shell of your teeth, is porous. Microscopic debris from the foods and beverages you consume seep into the pores and settle beneath the surface where your toothbrush cannot reach them. Over time, the buildup of debris inside of the pores of our enamel diminishes the way that light reflects off of your teeth. This results in stains or overall discoloration. Teeth whitening is the process of breaking down the particles of debris that have settled in your enamel. This is done by applying a bleaching agent, usually carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide.
You have options for how you address discolored teeth. Commercial whitening treatments are convenient but, according to surveys, are not always effective. It is beneficial to have your trusted dentist devise your teeth whitening treatment. Doing so means that you benefit from a professional-grade whitening agent that gets results more quickly. Dr. Gonzalez offers both in-office teeth whitening and home teeth whitening treatments. They work in the same basic manner but in-office treatment is more accelerated.
Am I a Candidate for Teeth Whitening?
If you enjoy good oral health and want a brighter smile, you may be a great candidate for teeth whitening! The two criteria that most dentists look for when consulting with patients about teeth whitening are that they are free of cavities and gum disease. Having either could diminish your experience and result in unnecessary discomfort. Before jumping right into the teeth whitening process, the dentist will perform a thorough examination. In addition to checking your teeth and gums for signs of decay or infection, Dr. Gonzalez will also check your restorations. If you have fillings, crowns, a bridge, or veneers, your teeth whitening treatment will need to be conducted with extraordinary care. The goal is to whiten your natural teeth to the same shade as your visible restorations.
Teeth whitening is generally considered safe and effective. However, it is not approved for women who are pregnant or nursing and may not be ideal for people with extremely sensitive teeth.
What is the Best Way to Maintain My Teeth Whitening Results?
Once you’ve had your teeth whitened, you can manage your smile by avoiding the overconsumption of products that cause stains. This can be relatively challenging, we know. If you start your day with a cup of coffee or tea, you can protect your new, bright smile by rinsing your mouth with water afterward. Sipping water throughout the day is a great habit to keep because it can help maintain the moisture in your mouth and also wash away residual debris from the foods and beverages you consume. When possible, drink stain-causing beverages through a straw. Also, brush your teeth twice a day as recommended by your dentist, and floss daily, too. Your regular checkups and cleanings can also help prolong the results of your teeth whitening treatment. The instrument that the dentist or hygienist uses polishes the surface of your teeth and removes surface stains.
Does Teeth Whitening Cause Any Pain?
Teeth whitening treatment can be uncomfortable in some instances. To reach the particles of debris that have settled in the pores of your enamel, the bleaching agent must penetrate through the protective biofilm that covers your teeth. Doing so, and depositing the peroxide into the pores nearer to the nerves of your teeth, the whitening process could cause some sensitivity. Some people experience what are called “zingers,” momentary sensations of shooting pain. These sensations may occur for several days but can be managed by using toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. If needed, you can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever to reduce sensitivity. Finally, while your teeth are sensitive, limit your consumption of very hot or very cold foods and beverages.
How Long Does the Teeth Whitening Procedure Take?
Your teeth whitening procedure may take an hour or a few weeks. It depends on the process that you choose. Our in-office whitening treatment is performed using light to accelerate the whitening process. During this visit, we apply the whitening gel to your teeth, after which you sit under a special lamp for about 15 minutes. We remove the whitening gel and observe the difference in color. If you want to achieve a lighter shade of white, another application of the whitening gel is applied and you sit under the lamp for another 15 minutes. This can be repeated three times to lighten your teeth by several shades. Home whitening works the same way but without the light to accelerate the process. If you whiten at home, you will see a gradual change in the color of your teeth. To reach your desired shade may take up to two weeks of daily application of your whitening gel using your custom-made whitening trays.
Should I Avoid Eating or Drinking After the Procedure?
Ideally, you should drink only water for four hours after undergoing teeth whitening treatment. Doing so helps your enamel recover optimally from the treatment. For the first two days after an in-office treatment (or throughout your home whitening process), your smile will benefit from eating a “white diet.” This includes foods like white rice, chicken or white fish, eggs, potatoes, cauliflower, white beans, and other light-colored items. In addition to water, you may drink sprite or non-colored soda, sparkling water, and milk. To get and keep your whitest, your dentist would prefer that you avoid red wine and other highly-colored beverages. Remember, if you do consume potentially stain-causing foods, make a habit of rinsing your mouth with water afterward.
Can People of Any Age Get Their Teeth Whitened?
The teeth whitening process can be generally safe for teens and adults of all ages. That said, many dentists advise against teeth whitening too early. If a teen begins whitening their teeth regularly, there is a chance that their enamel could become brittle over time. To prevent unforeseen risks Dr. Gonzalez performs a thorough examination and consultation with each patient who is interested in teeth whitening.
How at-home whitening works
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.
“Everyone in the office does a fantastic job! They care about the little details and making sure that your care is their priority. Dr. Gonzales is brilliant and knows so much about how to help you. They all do a great job with communication and preparation for your appointment. Highly recommend them to anyone needing great dental care!” -M.B
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.