What Causes Tooth Discoloration?
The whiteness of your teeth is directly related to the health and age of their surface enamel. Over time, this protective enamel begins to wear away, exposing the natural color of your tooth below the surface, which is not the dazzling white shade you would prefer.
Dentin below the surface typically has a yellowish hue. Tooth color is a genetic trait, and so some individuals have more of a brown or even greenish-gray coloring just below the enamel. In addition, cracks develop over time as your teeth chew food and are exposed to sugars and acids. This gradually leads to a duller appearance of the teeth. The thickness of your teeth is also something that you have inherited. Thin, translucent teeth lose their sparkle faster, and are more difficult to whiten.
Whitening and Bleaching
The drugstore shelf is filled with products that claim to whiten teeth, quickly and dramatically. There are toothpastes, strips, rinses and even whitening pens that are fairly effective at removing stains, but unfortunately have little impact on the color of the tooth.
The use of the terms “whitening” and “bleaching” is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Although products that use the term bleaching must meet a higher standard, whitening is most often used for tooth whitening products and procedures because it sounds gentler and even more effective. Bleaching products contain hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide or other chemical bleaches. A whitening product can be anything from a conventional toothpaste that carries a whitening claim on the label to professional treatments.
Ultradent Opalescence™ Teeth Whitening
The experienced cosmetic dentistry specialists of Contos Smile Center recommend Opalescence treatment, a carbamide peroxide-based approach that has been proven in an array of studies, and in their own practice. With Opalescence home treatments or in-office applications, your new, brilliant smile can be up to eight shades lighter.
Opalescence Tooth Whitening Systems are a suite of products manufactured by Ultradent that offer customized treatments to whiten your teeth safely and conveniently. Because the carbamide peroxide concentration used in the gel is medical-strength, these products need to be prescribed by a dentist.
At-Home Teeth Whitening
If you prefer to do your whitening at home over a period of a week or more, your visit to Contos Smile Center will involve the taking of an impression of your teeth; this is used to create a plastic retainer that you can use at home, filling the retainer with Opalescense gel and placing the tray in your mouth.
Opalescence carbamide peroxide concentrations range from 10 to 40 percent. There are even flavor options: mint, melon and regular. The gel also contains fluoride and potassium nitrate, to reduce sensitivity, fortify enamel and prevent cavities. For patients who prefer even greater convenience, pre-filled dental trays are available. Depending on the strength of gel you choose, you will only need to wear your plastic retainer 15 minutes to an hour each day.
In-Office Teeth Whitening
Contos Smile Center also offers a popular in-office whitening option using Opalescence Boost, a chemically-activated treatment that accelerates your smile through ever-brighter shades of white in less than an hour. This approach is more advanced than whitening gels that are activated by heat, lights or lasers. In fact, clinical trials indicate that light- or laser-based activation is mostly for show, and does nothing to quicken the whitening process with either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide products.
Teeth whitening may increase tooth sensitivity in the short term, and may also mildly irritate the gums. For in-office whitening, your dentist will apply fluoride at the end of your session to remineralize the teeth and mitigate sensitivity. Use of an over-the-counter sensitivity-reducing toothpaste containing potassium nitrate is also recommended in the days following your treatment. As for any negative impact on your enamel, gums or existing dental work, you can be confident there will be none.
Certain types of tooth discoloration are resistant to whitening. Stains caused by some antibiotics are harder to lighten, and may require more than one application. Gray and brown coloring may also be a challenge. The best results are usually seen with yellow teeth. The process is not recommended for individuals with extreme teeth sensitivity, women who are pregnant or nursing, or children.
How to Ensure Best Teeth Whitening Results (No Discoloration)
Tooth staining is often related to diet and lifestyle choices: Smoking yellows teeth, and even vaping can negatively affect the appeal of your smile. Although vaping does not coat the teeth with tar, it does transmit nicotine and sometimes dyes that are added to flavored vaping liquids.
Some foods and beverages have the ability to stain teeth when consumed regularly. This group includes coffee, tea, red wine and dark-colored foods. Vinegar, fruits and vegetables with high acid content can create stains by eroding the protective enamel. Many sodas also have the same effect. Acid in soda damages enamel, and sugary drinks promote decay. Deeply pigmented foods often contain natural dyes that will stain teeth. In this category are blueberries, blackberries, beets, pomegranates and even turmeric, which is a key ingredient in many curries.
These surface stains from food, drink and smoking are known as extrinsic stains, but they can easily become intrinsic stains that are much harder to remove if allowed to accumulate.
Most intrinsic discoloration begins early in life and is beyond your control. If you or your mother took tetracycline antibiotics when your teeth were forming, you may have permanent dark grey or brown stains. Excessive intake of fluoride at early ages can also create similar intrinsic stains that form in the interior of teeth.
Regular cleanings by your Contos Smile Center dentist can prevent your surface stains from penetrating the dentin and becoming permanent marks. Home care is also key. That means brushing twice a day, using light pressure and proper brush motion, and flossing to clear away food from places your brush cannot reach.
For more information on teeth whitening options or to schedule an appointment in our Chicago office, call (773) 973-0531 or email Contos Smile Center today.
We are dedicated to providing the highest level of service and quality to our patient community by cultivating strong relationships, communicating thoughtful treatment solutions, and providing an enjoyable atmosphere, we can empower our patients to take ownership of their oral health.
We are committed to researching and offering state-of-the-art dental solutions in order to deliver the most advanced treatment options to our patients.