Americans are obsessed with white teeth. In just about every commercial or advertisement you see, there is someone smiling for the camera with a set of perfectly straight, white teeth. How do they do it? When most people look in the mirror, chances are their teeth have a yellow tint. That’s because our teeth are natural white-yellow or white-gray. To get to the perfect shade of white, you’ll have to get some backup, and one of the best procedures is professional teeth whitening. But what is it, and how does it change the shade of your teeth?

As one of the most common cosmetic dental procedures out there, and one of the safest, many patients still don’t understand what it is and how it can help them. If you’ve been considering teeth whitening but just wanted more information, this blog is for you.

young couple looking at their guide book

What Exactly Are Stains?

You’ve probably heard about stains on your teeth, but what’s the deal? Are they like stains on a carpet, maybe after you’ve had a little too much wine? In a way, actually, they are. There are two types of stains: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic stains are the most common, and pretty similar to that ketchup stain on your shirt. As it turns out, you have a bunch of natural ridges on your enamel — it’s not as flat and smooth as it feels. Over time, the food and drink we consume gets caught in these natural ridges in the same way crumbs can work into a carpet or ketchup into the fibers of your shirt. This creates yellowish stains, tarnishing your beautiful smile.

Intrinsic stains are much less common and more difficult to deal with. These are caused from within the tooth. The layer under the enamel is known as dentin, and inside that is the pulp. Intrinsic stains are generally the result of certain medications, trauma, or even age, which can result in changes to the dentin or pulp.

What Is Professional Whitening?

Professional teeth whitening works a lot like a carpet stain remover. Staining agents from food, drink, and habits like smoking, get caught in the ridges of your enamel. To remove these stains, dentists use a solution, usually one that contains peroxide, which breaks down these trapped particles into smaller pieces so that they can be flushed from your teeth. Usually this is done in three treatments, lasting 10-15 minutes each. After the last solution has been given, patients generally see improvements of up to eight shades. For more dramatic results, it’s suggested that patients pair a professional in-office treatment with a take-home whitening kit.

Is Professional Whitening Right For Me?

Professional whitening isn’t the perfect solution. If your teeth are crooked or chipped, there’s not much whitening can do. The same goes for if your teeth are stained intrinsically from a certain medication you may be taking. In this case, porcelain veneers may be a better option. The best way to determine if professional whitening is right for you, is by scheduling a dentist appointment. There, you and your dentist can speak about the best option for upgrading your smile.

For more information on the quality dental care we offer, please call (803) 781-9090 or contact Smile Columbia Dentistry today for an appointment.