Teeth Whitening: How It Works

Most of us start out with sparkling white teeth, thanks to their porcelain like enamel surface.

The enamel is composed of crystalline rods – in a honeycomb like pattern. These enamel rods are designed to protect the teeth from the effects of chewing, gnashing, trauma and acid attacks.  Over the years the enamel is worn down, becoming more transparent and permitting the yellow colour of dentin (the tooth’s core material) to show through. During routine chewing, millions of micro-cracks occur in the enamel.  It is in these cracks, as well as the spaces between the crystalline enamel rods, that gradually fill with stains and debris.  As a result – the teeth look darker.

Teeth whitening removes the stains and debris.

There are two types of stain.  Extrinsic and intrinsic stain.   Extrinsic stains are those that appear only on the surface of the teeth as a result of exposure to dark-coloured beverages, foods, tobacco, etc.  Superficial extrinsic stains are minor and can be removed at your dental cleaning.  Stubborn  extrinsic stains can be removed with more involved efforts, like teeth   whitening.  Intrinsic stains are those that form on the interior of the teeth.  They are usually the result of things like trauma, aging, exposure to minerals (like tetracycline) during tooth formation, and /or excessive ingestion of fluoride.  Some of the intrinsic stains are easy to remove, others which are deep seated – like tetracycline stains, can often be removed with supervised take home whitening that is maintained over a matter of months or even a year.

Yellow-brown teeth are generally more responsive to whitening than blue-grey teeth.   No amount of whitening will yield “unnaturally” white teeth.  Dental restorations such as white fillings, dental crowns and porcelain veneers are not affected by whitening solutions and will maintain their original colour.

There are three major whitening options available today.  Over-the-counter whitening (which has a lower concentration of whitening gel than that of the professionally dispensed take-home whiteners), in-office whitening, and professionally dispensed take home whitening kits.

Call our office for more information on which option is best for you.

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