Dr. Nick Cicortas, DMD
Lifeway Dental of Boca
9101 Lakeridge Blvd., Unit 9
Boca Raton, FL 33496
Tooth whitening, or bleaching, is one of the most requested dental procedures. While brushing and flossing may keep teeth healthy and white, many feel their teeth are yellower than desired. A survey by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry found that given the option to improve one’s smile, 90% of those interviewed wanted whiter teeth.
Why are my teeth dark? While whitening can dramatically change tooth color, it is important to recognize what caused them to darken in the first place. Indeed, during the first few days after whitening, many of these factors can undo all the hard work. Foremost, coffee, tea and red wine are the top food and drinks that will stain due to pigments called chromogens.
Second, tobacco use exposes teeth to tar and nicotine, which results in dark and yellow stains. Lastly, aging deposits in more yellow dentin inside the tooth, and in a thinner enamel. Other less common factors such as trauma and medications can darken teeth, and are treated differently.
How does whitening work? Whitening can be achieved both by physical and chemical means. Abrasive toothpastes and special pastes used by your hygienist can remove superficial stains. If a more intense whitening is desired, a peroxide-based product is applied. The two options are either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, with hydrogen peroxide provider faster results. Peroxides work by release of free radicals which break down chromogens into smaller molecules that reflect light differently, leading to whiter teeth.
The two most common options involve treatment in the office, or trays taken at home. In-office applications are generally 40-60 minutes, provide the quickest results, but also carry a higher potential for tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. At-home trays generally take 1-2 weeks for noticeable results, but allow you to control the process.