Teeth Whitening and Bleaching

One look at the dramatic difference just a single teeth whitening or bleaching treatment can make to the color and complexion of a patient’s smile and you’ll quickly understand why teeth whitening and bleaching have become the most popular cosmetic dental procedures in the U.S.

At Burlingame Dental Arts, our dentists can provide you with the brilliantly bright smile you’ve always wanted. Teeth whitening and bleaching are inexpensive and incredibly safe. Depending on your preference, you can choose to whiten or bleach just your upper teeth or both the top and bottom rows. You’ll be amazed at the difference just one teeth whitening or bleaching treatment can make in how confident you feel about the appearance of your smile.

Are Teeth Whitening and Bleaching the Same Thing?

While the American Dental Association (ADA) has defined the differences between teeth whitening and teeth bleaching, the terms are often used interchangeably. The ADA describes whitening as the process of restoring the natural color of teeth by removing stains from the tooth surface (removing extrinsic stains). Whereas, teeth bleaching refers to whitening teeth beyond their natural color, i.e., changing the intrinsic color of teeth. Both methods, however, are used for improving the color of teeth.

What Makes Teeth Whitening and Bleaching So Popular?

Teeth are among the most prominent features that people are likely to notice when meeting someone. For this reason, people try to keep their teeth in good shape and form to make a better impression. Studies show that the most common issue with the appearance of teeth is the impending yellowness with age.

Your smile, if taken care of, is that one feature that remains attractive no matter how old you get. According to American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), about 45 percent of survey participants agree that a smile is the most attractive feature, no matter their age. Roughly half (54 percent) of respondents ages 50+ attest that a smile can withstand the test of time most attractively as someone ages, compared with 39 percent of 18-49 year-olds who feel the same.

Young adults are more conscious about their teeth and a vast majority does not feel confident enough to smile. Another survey by AACD reveals that more than one-third of people are concerned by the look of their teeth, almost one in four people admit to hiding their teeth in photos, and over 70 percent of adults believe an unattractive smile will hurt their chances of obtaining a better career or success. 

Techniques like bleaching and whitening give people a chance to reclaim their confidence. These methods either restore the original color of teeth (whitening) or brighten them beyond their original color (bleaching).

What Causes Yellowing of Teeth?

Tooth discoloration or yellowing is caused by a number of factors, including:

  1. Poor dental hygiene
  2. Advancing age (natural tooth enamel breaks down, revealing the yellowish color of dentin – a protein present in teeth)
  3. Smoking or using other tobacco products
  4. Caffeine intake, for example, coffee and tea
  5. Certain drugs or medication (e.g., tetracycline, an antibiotic) 
  6. Trauma
  7. Genetics (some people have naturally yellowish teeth)
  8. Betel-chewing
  9. Fluorosis

How Does Tooth Whitening and Bleaching Work?

Both whitening and bleaching methods use a common ingredient, hydrogen peroxide, also known as H2O2. Hydrogen peroxide is a common household chemical often used to bleach hair and remove tough stains from clothes.

In whitening and bleaching teeth, hydrogen peroxide acts as an oxidizing agent that breaks down stains into smaller pieces, which makes the color less concentrated and your teeth brighter.

Hydrogen peroxide solutions are available in different potencies. Many over-the-counter (OTC) teeth whitening kits are available, which normally have 3 to 20 percent hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. OTC whitening methods include gels, chewing gums, rinses, toothpastes, paint-on films, and whitening strips. Natural remedies include the use of malic acid which is found in green apples.

In-office whitening and bleaching sessions are offered, where hydrogen peroxide of a higher concentration is used (15 to 43 percent hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide). 

What is the Effectiveness of Over-the-Counter Whitening Kits?

OTC whitening kits that bear the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance indicate that they are both safe and effective for whitening when used as directed. While they do produce some results, they are not as long-lasting and they take significantly longer than do at-home or in-office approaches.

What is the Effectiveness of In-Office and At-Home Options?

Dentists offer both at-home and in-office options for teeth whitening and bleaching.  Both options are dentist-supervised–whitening products supplied by dentists for use at home or applied by dentists in the office. In-office whitening and bleaching procedures are generally faster and more effective than at-home ones since the bleaching agent used (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide) have greater concentration levels.

Who is an Ideal Candidate for Teeth Whitening and Bleaching?

Teeth whitening and bleaching may be right for you if you have:

  • Generalized stains on your teeth
  • Aging teeth
  • Smoking and dietary stains on your teeth from tea and coffee
  • Dental fluorosis (having multiple spots on your teeth from fluoride)
  • Tetracycline staining (improves but doesn’t correct it totally)
  • Changes to the inside of your tooth (e.g. death of the nerve or root canal treatment)

Note that whitening and bleaching do not work well on all teeth, especially those that have brown or gray stains.  For these patients, veneers or crowns may be a better option.

Who Should Not Have These Treatments?

Teeth whitening and bleaching is not for everyone, especially if you

  • Have decay in your mouth, gum disease, or infection underneath your teeth
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have a peroxide allergy
  • Have tooth sensitivity
  • Have cracked and exposed dentine (once treated, these teeth can be whitened or bleached)
  • Have caps, veneers, crowns or fillings (teeth whitening does not usually change the color of fillings and other restorative materials)
  • Have discoloration from medications or a tooth injury
  • Have a receding gum line

Are There Risks Associated with Teeth Whitening and Bleaching?

Some patients experience side effects after teeth whitening and bleaching treatments.  The biggest risks are tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. These effects are usually temporary, not lasting more than 1 or 2 days after treatment. Using toothpaste for sensitive teeth will help to take away some of the “tingling” feelings in your teeth.

What to Expect During Your Consultation?

During your consultation, the dentist will review your medical and dental history with you (including allergies and sensitivities), examine your teeth, gums, and the placement and condition of restorations, if any. Sometimes x-rays may be taken to determine the nature and depth of possible irregularities.

If the dentist determines that you are a viable candidate for teeth whitening or bleaching, you will be scheduled for a teeth whitening or bleaching appointment.

How Often Do You Need to Get Your Teeth Bleached?

In-office (chairside) teeth whitening usually keeps your smile white for about a year. Teeth whitening with take-home products from your dentist usually lasts for several months. Most people find they need a touch-up every 4 to 6 months.

Don’t wait to get the healthier, better-looking smile you’ve always wanted. Call Burlingame Dental Arts at (503) 218-4285 to schedule your next teeth whitening or bleaching treatment with our dentists today!