Everyone strives to have a healthy and bright smile. Unfortunately, life often gets in the way. Choosing to drink those morning cups of coffee, indulging in regular plates of tasty pasta, or relaxing with a glass of red wine can contribute to tooth discoloration, dulling your smile or leaving noticeable stains on the surface of your teeth.
In order to restore your bright smile, you may consider teeth whitening. But is teeth whitening a permanent solution? While professional whitening can last for a few years, your lifestyle is likely to contribute to additional staining down the road.
Here we will take a closer look at teeth whiting procedures, what to expect, how long they can last, and some alternatives that may provide more permanent solutions.
- Teeth whitening, which can be done at home or professionally, improves the appearance of teeth by removing stains. It’s generally safe but may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with sensitive teeth, gum disease, or certain dental restorations.
- While effective, teeth whitening isn’t permanent. Its longevity depends on factors like lifestyle habits, oral hygiene routine, and genetic factors. Regular brushing, flossing, avoiding staining foods and beverages, and regular dental checkups can extend the whitening effect.
- Alternatives like dental bonding, veneers, and dental crowns can be considered for a more lasting solution. They help in covering up stains and improving the appearance of teeth.
What is teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening is a cosmetic dental procedure that involves removing stains and discoloration from the teeth to improve their appearance. There are several teeth whitening methods, but the most common ones involve using a bleaching agent to penetrate the tooth enamel and remove stains.
It’s worth noting that while teeth whitening can be effective for most people, it’s not recommended for everyone. People with sensitive teeth, gum disease, or certain types of dental restorations, such as crowns or veneers, may not be good candidates for teeth whitening.
Professional vs. at-home teeth whitening
When it comes to teeth whitening, there are two different types: professional and at-home options. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, and the choice ultimately depends on personal preference and budget.
At-home teeth whitening involves using a whitening kit that you can purchase over the counter or through your dentist. These kits typically include whitening gel and trays that you wear over your teeth for a specified period of time. At-home treatments take longer to produce results than professional treatments, and the results may be less dramatic. However, they are more affordable and convenient for those who prefer to whiten their teeth at home.
Professional teeth whitening is typically done in a dental office by a trained dental professional. They apply whitening gel to the teeth and use a special light to activate the whitening agent. This process usually takes about an hour and can produce noticeable results after just one session. Professional teeth whitening is more expensive than at-home treatments, but it is often more effective and longer-lasting.
Factors affecting tooth color
There are a variety of factors that can affect the color and appearance of your teeth. While some of these can be altered by tooth whitening, others may require alternative treatment options we will discuss below. Some common factors that affect tooth color include:
- Genetics: Some people are born with naturally brighter or darker teeth than others.
- Aging: As we age, the outer layer of tooth enamel wears away, revealing the darker, yellowish dentin layer underneath.
- Lifestyle factors: Certain habits like drinking coffee, tea, or red wine, and using tobacco can cause stains on the teeth over time.
- Poor oral hygiene: Neglecting to brush and floss regularly can lead to a buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth, which can cause discoloration.
- Trauma: If a tooth is injured or experiences trauma, it can become discolored or even die, resulting in a darkening of the tooth.
- Medications: Certain medications like antibiotics, antihistamines, and blood pressure medications can cause tooth discoloration.
- Medical conditions: Some medical conditions like celiac disease, liver disease, and certain infections can cause changes in tooth color.
Is teeth whitening permanent?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is no. However, with a quality oral hygiene routine in place, as well as following some other lifestyle tips, you can extend the life of your teeth whitening treatment, with many seeing lasting effects up to three years.
How to maintain your whitened teeth
The longevity of teeth whitening results can vary depending on a number of different factors. Following these steps and tips can help maintain your whitening results and keep your smile looking beautiful and bright.
- Practice good oral hygiene: Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and use floss or flossers to clean between your teeth.
- Visit your dentist regularly: Regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings are essential for maintaining oral health and addressing any concerns about teeth discoloration.
- Avoid staining foods and beverages: Limit your consumption of foods and beverages that can stain your teeth, such as coffee, tea, red wine, berries, and tomato-based sauces. If you do consume these items, rinse your mouth with water or brush your teeth 30 minutes after consumption.
- Use a straw: When drinking staining beverages, use a straw to minimize contact with your teeth and reduce the risk of staining.
- Quit smoking or using tobacco products: Smoking and tobacco use can cause severe tooth discoloration. Quitting these habits not only improves your overall health but also helps maintain the whiteness of your teeth.
- Rinse your mouth after meals: Swishing your mouth with water after eating can help remove food particles and reduce staining.
- Use whitening toothpaste or mouthwash: Incorporate whitening toothpaste or mouthwash into your oral hygiene routine. These products can help remove surface stains and maintain the brightness of your teeth.
Teeth whitening risks to consider
Teeth whitening is generally considered safe, and your dentist takes steps to avoid these risks when you choose professional whitening treatments. In general, many side effects or risk factors are more associated with at-home whitening options, though they can also occur with professional treatments. Potential side effects and risk factors include:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Gum irritation
- Damage to the tooth enamel (often linked to misuse or overuse of whitening products)
- Allergic reactions
- Uneven whitening (this can be caused by inconsistent application of the whitening product or can occur when whitening teeth around dental restorations, as they will not change color)
Alternatives to teeth whitening
If you have not had luck with dental whitening in the past, have sensitivities to whitening products, have multiple dental restorations or gum disease, or are simply looking for a longer lasting alternative to teeth whitening, there are some options to consider. These include:
- Dental Bonding: Dental bonding involves applying a tooth-colored resin material to the surface of the teeth. It can help cover up stains, chips, and minor imperfections, giving your teeth a brighter and more uniform appearance.
- Veneers: Dental veneers are thin, custom-made shells that are bonded to the front surface of the teeth. They can be used to mask discoloration, close gaps, and improve the shape and alignment of teeth. Veneers are highly versatile and can provide a long-lasting improvement to the appearance of your smile.
- Dental Crowns: Dental crowns, also known as caps, are tooth-shaped restorations that completely cover damaged or discolored teeth. They can provide both functional and aesthetic benefits, restoring the appearance and strength of the tooth.
Putting your best smile forward
If you are unhappy with the color of your teeth and are looking to brighten your smile, teeth whitening may be the perfect solution. While there are at-home treatment options, you are likely to get the best results from professional teeth whitening with your dentist, as they are able to address potential concerns and avoid potential side effects, such as gum irritation. Following a quality oral hygiene routine will help you maintain your new bright smile for longer, though, as teeth whitening is not permanent, you may choose additional treatments as directed by your dentist in order to keep your new smile bright.
Helping you achieve a healthy, beautiful smile
At Soundview Family Dental, our caring team of professionals strives to help you maintain a beautiful, healthy smile. We also understand how tooth discoloration can keep you from smiling. Our team is here to help you achieve your whitening goals while also ensuring that your teeth and gums are healthy, and you are following an oral hygiene routine that will help maximize your teeth whitening results.
To learn more, call (425) 434-5997 today to schedule an appointment.