Teeth whitening is a common and popular cosmetic treatment that can dramatically improve the appearance of your smile. A single treatment can lighten your teeth five to ten shades, removing surface staining and returning your teeth to their natural brightness. It is effective for extrinsic stains, but other types of staining usually require different types of treatment.
Causes of Tooth Staining
The most common cause of tooth discoloration is exposure to staining agents such as foods and beverages. The most common staining agents are:
- Fruit juices
- Strongly colored fruits or vegetables
Extensive exposure to any of these can lead to stains on the surfaces of the teeth. This type of stain usually responds well to teeth whitening treatment, particularly if you receive professional whitening from your dentist.
Intrinsic staining does not tend to respond well to whitening treatment because it affects the deeper layers of the teeth. It’s usually caused by exposure to excess fluoride or certain antibiotics while the teeth are developing. Interior discoloration can also occur due to injury to the tooth’s interior. Unlike extrinsic, or surface, staining, intrinsic staining often requires more complex treatment such as dental veneers. In the case of internal tooth damage, you’ll probably need root canal treatment.
How Teeth Whitening Works
Teeth whitening makes use of a strong bleaching agent applied to the surfaces of the teeth. Your dentist can use a professional-strength whitener that works more quickly and more efficiently than over-the-counter products. Your dentist will use plastic appliances and special protective gels to keep the whitener from irritating your gums, tongue, or lips. The whitener is then applied to the teeth and, in some cases, the dentist uses a special light to activate it. After about twenty minutes, the whitener is removed and replaced with a new application. A single treatment involves three applications and takes about an hour.
You’ll be able to see a difference in the look of your teeth right away, but the full effect of the treatment takes a few days to take effect. Your teeth will remain white for several months. Periodic touch-up treatments will help you maintain your bright smile.
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