You have a beautiful smile, but you hesitate to show it because of your stained teeth. Fortunately, whitening techniques could take away that embarrassment.
There are two basic types of tooth staining or discoloration: extrinsic, in which the stain is on the surface of the teeth and mostly caused by substances like coffee, wine or tobacco; and intrinsic, which occurs deep within the tooth, caused by such factors as aging, previous dental treatments and fillings, the use of antibiotics (tetracycline, predominantly), or over-exposure to fluoride.
Whitening or bleaching is an effective and relatively affordable solution for many instances of both intrinsic and extrinsic staining. Bleaching solutions are available in over-the-counter (OTC) home kits or as a professional application in the dental office.
Most bleaching solutions use carbamide peroxide, a chemical compound that is effective in removing most stains. OTC home applications contain carbamide peroxide (or an equivalent) in concentrations of about 10% as opposed to 15-35% found in professional solutions. Though less costly than a professional application, OTC products take longer (usually up to three weeks) to achieve desired results. With its stronger solution, a professional application in our office can achieve the same level of brightness in only one or two visits. We may also use special lighting to accelerate the chemical process, as well as rubber dams or gels to protect gums and soft tissues from solution irritation during the procedure.
Although effective, whitening isn't a permanent solution — over time the effect will fade, usually six months to a year depending on how you care for your teeth. Matching tooth color can also be difficult in some cases, especially if you have a mix of natural teeth and artificial crowns or bridges. And, whitening may not be adequate for some types of staining.
Regardless of which application you wish to use — OTC or professional — it's a good idea to visit us first for a professional consultation. We can recommend whether whitening is a good choice for your particular type and level of staining, or if some other option like porcelain veneers might be the better choice. Regardless, there are solutions to the problem of staining, and a way to gain a brighter smile.
If you would like more information on bleaching, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teeth Whitening.”