It seems everyone is getting their teeth bleached to a dazzling white here in the Los Angeles area, or are getting veneers to achieve that white porcelain sink effect. Just kidding. I understand, especially as I get older, why having those pearly whites shining means so much to your appearance and self confidence. So I want to explain various ways of bleaching or teeth whitening.
There are many ways to achieve bleaching or teeth whitening, from kits you can buy at the drug store, to a kit your dentist can provide for you to take home to use, to having it done in your dentist’s office. Depending on your genetic inheritance, which affects tooth color, to your age, to how much stain you have accumulated over the years, to whether you continue to drink and eat dark colored foods, you will get different whitening results from that of the next person. But everyone experiences some gratifying lightening of their teeth. You may have to work to maintain that brighter look since no whitening of teeth is permanent. Therefore, you may need a touch-up from time to time.
Bleaching versus Teeth Whitening:
Strictly speaking, “bleaching” usually means lightening your teeth beyond their natural color and using products that contain bleach.
The term “whitening,” traditionally has meant cleaning teeth surfaces by removing dirt and debris. However the term “whitening” is a lot more popular and sounds better than bleaching, so “whitening” is the term more frequently used.
Why Teeth Whitening? What Happens to the Enamel Over Time
Our teeth were originally white or close to it, due to the enamel surface which protects the core of the tooth. Over the years the enamel is worn down due to chewing and while the core of the tooth remains intact, the surface enamel can suffer many micro-cracks. Stains can collect in these cracks and eventually your teeth aren’t so sparkly any longer.
Bleaching or teeth whitening removes the stains and debris, but this can leave the enamel cracks open and exposed. Re-staining can then occur. Stains can occur from the outside due to the foods we eat, beverages we drink, tobacco smoke and routine wear and tear. Or staining can occur inside the tooth due to aging, greater translucence of the enamel, teeth grinding, trauma, and certain minerals. Strictly speaking, every time we brush our teeth, we are doing a certain amount of teeth whitening. But to get the results we want we will have to use some kind of bleaching process. If the staining is too severe to be dealt with via bleaching, you may want to consider getting veneers.
What Teeth Whitening Approach is Best for Me?
The degree of bleaching or teeth whitening that’s right and pleasing to you can be assessed using a color guide. The costs for bleaching or teeth whitening vary from an in-office treatment cost of up to $600 or more, to maybe $20 for a whitening kit from the drug store. Sometimes it’s safer to go the slow route of the less strong solutions since you may discover some sensitivity to the bleaching process. A bleaching tray from your dentist might be the best middle road to go. The bleach is a bit stronger than what you can get from a drug store and you may be more satisfied with the results. Costs for a bleaching tray can range from $100 to $400. It takes two to four weeks for bleaching or teeth whitening to show results. If you need veneers then the cost will be different of course. Read my blog here for some of my thoughts on teeth whitening.