How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

Team Teeth Whitening

It's not surprising that teeth whitening is the most popular cosmetic dental procedure—offering a relatively quick and inexpensive way to enhance your smile. Brighter teeth can do wonders for improving your confidence. But how does it work? 

If you're considering teeth whitening, here are a few things you should know.

How Teeth Whitening Works: The Basics

Generally speaking, teeth whitening products work by penetrating the tooth enamel and removing surface stains. They contain bleaching agents, which are compounds that break down stain molecules on contact. 

Commonly used bleaching agents include hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide, and sodium perborate monohydrate. Different products use different combinations and concentrations of these ingredients.

The Two Types of Teeth Staining

External, or extrinsic, staining is a common cause of yellow or discolored teeth, often caused by smoking or drinking wine, tea, or coffee. Additionally, teeth tend to gradually darken as we age. 

Internal teeth staining, also known as intrinsic staining, is the discoloration of the tooth's interior. It doesn't affect the tooth's outer surface, but it does affect how your teeth look when you smile.

The most common of the two types is extrinsic staining. You can help prevent it by brushing and flossing regularly, avoiding foods and beverages known to cause staining, and visiting your dentist for cleanings twice per year or as recommended.

Intrinsic stains, however, are harder to remove because they're inside the teeth. Medications like tetracycline or fluoride treatments can cause them, and they may not respond as well as extrinsic stains to teeth whitening treatments. Your dentist can advise which whitening methods or cosmetic dental procedures will deliver the best results for you. 

Types of Teeth Whitening

The three main types of teeth whitening include:

  • Over-the-counter products—toothpastes, whitening strips, and bleaching kits–allow you to whiten your teeth at home. 
  • In-office bleaching kits from your dentist use a more potent bleaching agent than at-home kits and typically come with a custom tray to hold the product evenly against the surfaces of your teeth. 
  • In-office whitening uses a concentrated bleaching agent, sometimes activated by a specially designed light, for fast results. 

Teeth Whitening at Home

Here's a look at how over-the-counter, at-home teeth whitening products work:

  • Bleaching toothpaste: These are available as pastes and gels applied with a brush. They're inexpensive, but they're not as effective as other tooth whitening methods because only small amounts of the active ingredient—hydrogen peroxide—are released when you use them. 
  • Whitening strips: Whitening strips are made of a thin plastic film that sticks to your teeth containing a gel material similar to toothpaste. The gel slowly dissolves as you wear the strips, releasing chemicals that lighten your teeth over time.
  • Bleaching kits: These typically include a mouth guard that fits over your teeth and a bleaching solution.

Teeth Whitening at Your Dentist’s Office

  • Take-home whitening kits available from your dentist include custom-fabricated trays that fit your teeth precisely for the best results. The whitening product in these kits is typically stronger than over-the-counter products and is available in various concentrations depending on your specific needs. 
  • In-office professional teeth whitening involves the application of a whitening product by your dentist or hygienist. Some products are activated by a specially-designed light, but others don’t require this step. In-office whitening treatments typically give you a whiter smile in about an hour. 

Schedule Your Teeth Whitening Appointment Today

At Doctors Lake Family Dental, we aim to exceed our patients’ expectations. If you’re ready for a brighter smile and a boost to your confidence, contact us today. We look forward to helping you achieve a smile you’ll be proud to show off.