Surface stains, smoking, acidic foods, and aging are all common causes of yellowing teeth. This leads most of us, at some point or another, to explore options for tooth whitening to help combat the age old problem.

As we sift through information about home whitening kits, dental bleaching, and even natural remedies, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the potential options. Not all these methods are equally effective against staining and not all stains are created equal.

Want to learn more and figure out once and for all what whitening methods might work for you? Keep reading below.

What Causes Yellowing in the First Place

Before we get into the actual methods, it’s important to know that the cause of your less-than-white smile is going to determine your best course of treatment.

There are two categories your tooth dullness can fall into: surface stains or internal tooth discoloration.

Surface stains are the yellowing of the tooth’s exterior, commonly caused by drinking red wine, coffee, acidic foods, or participating in activities such as smoking. This discoloration affects the outer layer of the tooth, called tooth enamel, and can often be lifted with the use of whitening agents.

Internal discoloration is harder, if not impossible, to resolve. This is because, unlike surface stains, internal discoloration begins in the dentin layer of the tooth– permeating the entire core of the tooth with no resolution. Discoloration of this kind is most commonly from medications or aging, as both cause the dentin to grow back darker, greyer, or yellower over time. If you are trying to find whitening methods for this type of stain, your most promising solution is to cover the tooth such as through the use of veneers.

The Best Methods Around

As discussed above, most of the methods we use to treat discoloration are actually made to remedy surface stains. While this list reflects this, there are a couple options listed at the end for stubborn, internal discoloration.

  1. Whitening Toothpaste
    Whitening toothpastes are mild and widely available to individuals who are looking to gradually reduce a small amount of surface-level staining. These toothpastes remove stains by abrating and polishing the surface of the tooth. While this is an option that can be incorporated into your daily routine, be mindful that these products will not create dramatic whitening as do other methods.
  2. Whitening Strips
    Over-the-counter whitening strips come either in single-step packages or in kits where the whitening strength increases over time. These strips are placed over the teeth and left on for a set duration of time. As such, the ingredients are often stronger and more effective than those found in whitening toothpastes but can also cause a greater deal of sensitivity.
  3. At-Home Trays
    These are the products typically containing hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide– common “bleaching” agents in tooth whitening products.
    These particular products have a wide range of prices as they can be found either on drugstore shelves or be custom made so the trays fit your teeth exactly. The trays are then filled with the whitening gel and left to sit on your teeth for the time specified on the package.
    Another level stronger than strips, these products are once again stronger, typically more effective against surface stains, and possibly more prone to causing sensitive teeth and irritation of the gums.
  4. In-Office Trays
    Similar to at-home options, in-office trays utilize gels to whiten the surface of the tooth. Unlike take-home trays however, the process offers a more noticeable whitening effect in addition to being safer, more accurate, and often causing less sensitization.
    The increased safety is due in large part to the way in which the gums are protected during in-office whitening– usually through a brush-on protective material such as rubber or resin.
  5. Laser Whitening
    This is strictly in-office process which utilizes trays with the addition of a light used to enhance the whitening formula. Furthermore, the products used to whiten the teeth often have a higher level of peroxide, contributing to stronger, faster, lightening.
    The combination of these processes removes stains and whitens your teeth on a deeper level than just gel products alone.
  6. Veneers
    The final option available is the application of veneers (or their less invasive counterpart, lumineers). Depending on the type of veneer you choose, various amounts of your natural tooth will be filed away to make room for the porcelain overlay.
    Veneers are a permanent whitening solution in which porcelain or a composite material is made into the shape of your tooth and bonded over its surface. As such, this is the only type of whitening solution that is effective against internal tooth discoloration.

Side Effects

For certain individuals, side effects from whitening procedures may be a deal breaker between one option and another.

As you probably noticed, tooth sensitivity is a major concern when doing any kind of tooth whitening. If you currently experience tooth sensitivity, understand that even the milder forms of whitening will run the risk of sensitizing your teeth further.

In the case of veneers, it is important to consider that these are a permanent procedure that alter the natural tooth. Furthermore, if your veneers are not white enough at application, they cannot be whitened chemically at a later time. The color must be determined before your veneers are bonded.

Contacting Dental Health Experts

Inadvertently sensitizing your teeth in the process of removing surface stains could cause incredible discomfort when eating, drinking, or even brushing your teeth. As such, any time you are looking to alter the appearance of your teeth contacting a dental professional to assess your risks are a must.

Established in the 1980s, EVDP takes great pride in having clients receive the best dental care and the best service. If you are considering dental implant, contact EVDP to schedule an appointment or consultation.