Everyone wants whiter teeth. They boost our confidence, widen our smile and make us feel healthier and, yes, better looking. Fortunately, there are a number of home remedy and retail product options to help you whiten your yellow teeth, remove coffee or tobacco stains and even help with teeth stains from medications. For more difficult tooth discoloration, or for faster and more effective results, there are advanced solutions provided by your dentist, available thanks to today’s sophisticated technologies and treatment methods.
Below we discuss a few of the teeth whitening options available. No matter what you choose to do, take time to discuss teeth whitening with your dentist at your next regular visit as he or she can help you choose the most appropriate teeth whitening alternative for your situation. After all, your dentist knows your teeth better than anyone.
Causes of Tooth Discoloration
There are two forms of tooth discoloration—extrinsic (on the surface) and intrinsic (inside the tooth). As a rule, extrinsic stains can normally be improved or removed while intrinsic stains are generally much harder to deal with. Below are some common causes of these two types of tooth staining.
Extrinsic Tooth Discoloration — There are numerous causes of extrinsic teeth staining, surface discoloration left by foods and substances you eat or smoke, including:
- Chewing tobacco
- Various antihistamines
- Antipsychotic drugs
- High blood pressure medications
- Mouth injury (causing teeth to generate more dentin, a darker layer beneath the enamel)
- Many foods and beverages can contribute to, or cause tooth stains, including:
- Black or green tea
- Red or white wine
- Blackberries or blueberries
- High-sugar snacks
- Marinara or barbeque sauces
Intrinsic Tooth Discoloration — Permanent tooth stains that originate in the inner structure of the tooth are referred to as intrinsic stains. This form of tooth discoloration is much more difficult to reduce or eliminate. Some causes of intrinsic discoloration include:
- Taking antibiotics during childhood — Young children who were exposed to antibiotics such as tetracycline or doxycycline in the womb or as an infant may develop discolored teeth as adults.
- Chemotherapy — Chemotherapy as well as radiation of the neck and head can darken the teeth.
- Aging — The natural aging process can bring discoloration of teeth, due to a variety of lifestyle, dental maintenance, and/or medical conditions.
- Genetics — Some genetic conditions can cause or contribute to intrinsic teeth discoloration.
Stain-Preventive Tooth Care
Of course, the most recommended strategy for getting back a smile with bright white teeth is to maintain effective daily care of your teeth. Here are four simple things that can make a big difference in the color and health of your teeth:
- Brush and floss twice daily to help prevent stains from forming
- Switch to an electric toothbrush to get a better clean
- Use tooth whitening toothpaste containing very mild whitening agents
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to help maintain gum health and avoid damaging tooth enamel
Natural Ways to Whiten Teeth
The least expensive of the long-tested approaches for teeth whitening are natural methods. Some of these simple methods can help with extrinsic staining:
- Hydrogen peroxide — Most home teeth whitening systems contain this bleaching agent. The inexpensive pharmacy variety contains a very low percentage of the agent. Note that the American Dental Association has suggested that rinsing with this solution is likely to irritate gums faster than it whitens teeth. However, using a gel containing a higher percentage of the agent (6% hydrogen peroxide) may whiten teeth after two weeks of routine application.
- Baking powder — Baking powder is a mild abrasive agent, effective for scrubbing away teeth stains. You can add a little tap water to create a baking soda paste and use the paste to gently brush your teeth. This method can remove light stains and brighten teeth. However, brushing teeth with toothpaste products that contain baking soda over time may work better to reduce surface stains.
- Oil Pulling – used commonly in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, oil pulling is simply swishing an oil like sesame or coconut oil around in your mouth for a period of time, usually 10-20 minutes. While this seems a lot of time commitment, it is effective at removing bacteria and surface contaminants from your teeth and tongue. But oil pulling has to be done regularly to have an effect on removing extrinsic tooth stains.
Commercial Teeth Whiteners
If you want to whiten your teeth more quickly and with products specifically formulated for that, you can use commercial over-the-counter teeth whitening products. Some of these work well for moderate tooth whitening needs, and, though not as cheap as natural products, they’re relatively inexpensive. Some popular types include:
- Whitening toothpaste and treatments – a number of commercial products available over the counter can help with whitening your teeth. Simply ask your dentist for his or her recommendation so you can get the best one for your situation, budget, and lifestyle. Below are two examples.
- Carbamide Peroxide — An ADA accepted bleaching gel, some over-the-counter (OTC) products contain this chemical. These products may also contain potassium nitrate to help prevent increased sensitivity from the treatments and promote a strengthening of tooth enamel. Check for the ADA seal of approval before buying any OTC teeth-whitening products.
- Hydrogen Peroxide — Some commercial whitening products available online and in stores contain 10% hydrogen peroxide in a gel that is administered in thin plastic strips, one on the upper and one on the lower teeth. An example is Crest 3-D Whitening Strips (and other whitening strips of this kind) which are molded around the front surfaces of the teeth. The strips are effective, and the lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide is more appropriate for people with sensitive teeth.
Professional Teeth Whitening
There are circumstances under which you should leave your teeth whitening to your dentist. It may be time to consult with your dentist about having teeth whitening treatment performed at a dental office if you encounter problems like:
- Unsuccessful whitening attempts — The discoloration does not improve by using any of the following usual methods:
- Increasing the consistency and quality of your routine dental hygiene
- Changing your diet to eliminate tooth-staining foods and/or beverages
- Trying natural tooth whitening agents
- Using commercial whitening products
- Extreme discoloration — You may have intrinsic or serious extrinsic staining, requiring a professional application of stronger whitening products.
- Teeth or gum sensitivity — You have sensitive teeth or gums. Most home whitening agents will cause discomfort and irritation.
- Tooth damage — You have damaged teeth or apparent tooth decay.
- Risk of over-whitening — You are concerned about mistakes such as over-whitening. This error can actually cause additional tooth discoloration, causing your teeth to turn a slightly gray color.
Your dentist will use his or her best judgment in choosing a method for whitening your teeth. This will involve considering the type of staining, your overall dental/medical situation and your budget. The dentist will choose from a number of approved procedures, including the latest laser whitening technology and advanced bleaching processes. Be sure to go over the entire program with the dentist so you understand the cost, timeline, and your responsibilities as far as care at home.
Dr. Jesús Medina Jr. DDS — GLO Teeth Whitening Treatment
Dr. Medina offers a convenient, pain-free and fast teeth whitening service. The GLO (Guided Light Optics) technique uses advanced laser technology to speed up the teeth whitening process and produce a better-looking result. GLO is an innovative teeth whitening technology allowing pain-free treatments that won’t result in increased tooth sensitivity. The treatments are also simpler to administer than other types of professional whitening procedures, which has made the teeth whitening process more convenient for patients. This system is safe and highly effective.
GLO combines light and heat to apply with a simple device to activate a special tooth gel. This process provides results in one treatment that is only possible in professional dental office teeth whitening treatments. And, it provides the convenience of very simple and effective at-home maintenance.
Dr. Medina and his caring dental office team provide a full range of dental services to his patients, including general care and cosmetic and restorative dentistry. If you would like more information about your options for teeth whitening, or to make a dental appointment, contact Dr. Medina’s Las Vegas dental office by calling (702) 368-3627 or request an appointment. Once you’ve seen Dr. Medina, you’ll love your bright new smile!
Dr. Medina is a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). Advanced General Dentistry, with a practice in Las Vegas Nevada since 1988. He offers general and family dentistry, with a specialization in cosmetic and restorative dental services.