Whitening your teeth is a simple, inexpensive, and effective way to brighten your smile and improve your appearance. So it makes sense that in-office teeth whitening treatments are one of the most commonly requested cosmetic dental services. At North Bend Dental Care in North Bend, Washington, Dr. Chris J. Allemand helps patients from the eastern suburbs of Seattle get the white, vibrant smile they want.

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What causes tooth discoloration?

Not everyone starts out with bright white teeth. Just as your hair and skin color is uniquely yours, so is your natural tooth color. But no matter what shade of white your teeth are normally, discoloration can make them look dull, yellow, or gray. Whether it’s a recent change or something you’ve been dealing with for some time, there are several possible reasons why your pearly whites may have changed, including:

  • Diet: Coffee, tea, red wine, and berries are all known to stain teeth with their intense color pigments that easily adhere to tooth enamel.
  • Age: Tooth enamel gets thinner with age, allowing the yellowish dentin layer beneath to show through and giving your teeth a less-than-white appearance.
  • Cigarettes: Smoking is a common cause of tooth discoloration. Both tar and nicotine are known to leave stubborn stains on tooth enamel.
  • Medication: Certain prescription medicines, including antihistamines and blood pressure medication, are associated with tooth discoloration.

What does tooth whitening involve?

Professional bleaching, also known as chairside bleaching, is the most common approach to teeth whitening in the dental office.

It involves the use of either a rubber shield or a protective gel to shield your lips and gums from the bleach, which is applied directly to your teeth.

The active ingredient in tooth-whitening bleach is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. As these powerful bleaching agents are broken down, oxygen penetrates the enamel to help lift stains and visibly lighten the color of your teeth.

A newer, state-of-the-art procedure known as laser whitening or power whitening involves the use of a special whitening gel that’s activated by a special LED laser. During this treatment, your lips and gums are shielded before the whitening gel is applied to your teeth. The special laser is used to activate the whitening agent in the gel, which speeds up the process of breaking up stains and removing discoloration. Laser whitening may make your smile five or six shades brighter.

What else should I know about teeth whitening?

Before you can have a professional whitening treatment, it’s important to have a thorough oral exam because the bleaching process isn’t effective for all types of discoloration.

  • Yellow teeth: Generally bleach well
  • Brown teeth: Bleach poorly
  • Grey teeth: May not bleach at all

In addition, whitening treatments are meant for use on natural teeth, and aren’t effective on teeth that have been restored with veneers, bonding, crowns, or bridges.