The Science of Cosmetic Dentistry: How Teeth Whitening Actually Works

Many Americans are unhappy with the appearance of their teeth. That’s the conclusion reached in several studies, one of which revealed an estimated 61% of Americans wished they had whiter teeth. Many study respondents said they were not pleased with how yellow their teeth had become in recent years. They further admitted that the color of their teeth has taken a considerable toll on their self-esteem, to the extent that it adversely impacts their personal and professional lives.

Understanding Tooth Discoloration

There are a couple of reasons why someone’s teeth will start to yellow. Sometimes, it is a byproduct of eating and drinking dark-colored foods or drinks; other times, the yellowing stems from poor oral hygiene. For some individuals, it may be a combination of the two. According to one Boston University study, aging can also play a role in teeth turning yellow. Some foods and drinks contain chromogens, chemical compounds that give them a dark color. Examples of chromogen-containing foods and beverages include wine, blackberries, blueberries, and pomegranates. These foods and drinks gradually make teeth yellow, especially if poor oral hygiene is part of the equation. The acids in some foods can also wear down tooth enamel, which makes yellowing even more likely. As individuals age, the porous outer layer of enamel on their teeth becomes thinner, allowing dentin, the yellowish material beneath tooth enamel, to show through more prominently.

How to Maintain White Teeth

Practicing good oral hygiene can go a long way toward keeping your teeth looking brilliantly white while you’re young.  As you age, doing so can prevent them from becoming overly yellow.  According to the American Dental Association (ADA), practicing good oral hygiene entails brushing twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste and cleaning between teeth with floss at least once per day.  Regular dental exams that include professional teeth cleaning can also keep teeth looking their best.  Of course, if you already have yellow teeth, there are things you and your dentists can do to restore their brilliance.

At-Home Treatments for Whiter Teeth

For teeth that are mildly yellow or otherwise slightly discolored, at-home teeth whitening kits can help. These kits contain carbamide peroxide, hydrogen peroxide, or both, which whiten teeth by a few shades over time. Studies show the best at-home teeth whitening kits currently on the market include the following:

  • Smile Brilliant Teeth Whitening Trays
  • Ultradent Opalescence Go
  • Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips
  • Glo Science Glo Brilliant Personal Teeth Whitening Device
  • Lumineux Teeth Whitening Kit

Professional Dental Treatments for Noticeably Whiter Teeth

Professional teeth whitening treatments with a dentist might be in order if someone has very yellow teeth and wants to get them noticeably whiter. And that’s because in-office whitening treatment comprises a higher concentration of carbamide peroxide, typically between 6% and 35%, to get a patient’s teeth whiter. Some dentists use hydrogen peroxide combined with LED, ultraviolet, halogen, or another high-intensity light to make teeth whiter. But it does not end there. In some cases, dentists will provide their patients with a custom-fabricated tray, which they fill with a concentrated carbamide peroxide-based gel. Dentists will advise the patient on how long they must wear the tray daily to get their teeth whiter at home. Most people see results with professional teeth whitening treatments in 3 to 4 weeks.

Schedule a Consultation

In summary, teeth yellowing can happen for a host of reasons. But it is not the end of the world when it does. Many at-home and professional teeth whitening treatments can make one’s teeth whiter. To learn more, consider scheduling a consultation with Fennell, Yoxthimer, & Associates, a premier dental clinic in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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