Understanding Chemical Teeth Whitening

Teeth-whitening applications have grown in popularity, largely because of their ease and effectiveness. Most teeth whiteners are peroxide-based solutions or gels that are applied to the teeth for a period before being rinsed away.   Here is a bit of information about chemical teeth whitening to help you better understand it.

Do Chemical Whiteners Remove All Dental Stains?

Dental stains often result from the exposure of the tooth material to darkly colored foods and drinks. The deep tones of the pigment particles become entrenched in the pores of the tooth enamel. Over time, the particles accumulate resulting in the progressive darkening of the teeth.

Dental bleaches can remove stains that are food or drink-based. However, some staining or discoloration is considered permanent. This includes:

  • Discoloration from a birth defect. Congenital conditions can cause a person's tooth material to be naturally dark.
  • Darkening from trauma to a tooth. A blow to a tooth may damage the pulp and cause the tooth to take on a gray appearance.
  • Discoloration from medication. Some medications, such as tetracycline, have side effects that include permanent tooth discoloration.

To improve the look of permanent discoloration, dentists apply veneers or crowns. The devices conceal the dark tooth enamel. A veneer covers the front portion of the tooth only, while a dental crown encircles the entire portion of a tooth that is visible in the oral cavity.

Is Chemical Whitening Painful?

Teeth whitening is not painful. The provider coats or covers the soft tissues that surround the teeth to prevent irritation. Additionally, the dentist applies the whitening solution for the prescribed period only. As a result, the likelihood of painful dental sensitivity is reduced.

Still, some people who whiten their teeth at home using over-the-counter kits sometimes experience painful chronic dental sensitivity. The sensitivity results from the inflammation of dental nerves that lie in the tubules of the dentin. When a chemical whitener is left on the teeth for longer than prescribed, it may inflame dental nerves. Additionally, some over-the-counter kits include substances that are more likely to cause dental sensitivity than the active ingredients in professional whiteners.

How Long Does Chemical Whitening Last?

The amount of time that your teeth maintain their whiteness will vary based on their exposure to deeply colored pigments. People who regularly consume darkly hued substances, such as coffee or tea, may experience discoloration more rapidly. Nonetheless, your dental provider may suggest whitening gum or toothpaste to help maintain the new color of your teeth after a whitening application.

To learn more about dental whitening, schedule a consultation with a cosmetic dentistry specialist in your local area.