Everyone wants a beautiful white smile, and some are prepared to do whatever it takes to get it. Before you rush off to your dentist, here are a few things you should know about the different types of teeth whitening, how they work, if they are for you and what you can expect from a teeth whitening experience.

Your options

Generally speaking, there are two types of teeth whitening, namely intrinsic and extrinsic. There are many methods and treatments that can be administered for both types but they will determine which options are available to you. Intrinsic whitening affects the interior of the tooth. As we age, the dentin in our teeth becomes darker and the enamel on the outside of our teeth becomes thinner. This is a natural process but can also be sped up by what we eat and drink. The dark color of the dentin then shows through the enamel, giving the tooth its yellow or grey appearance.

It is not only aging, but other factors that can bring on this process, such as genetics, too much fluoride, or silver fillings, among others.

Extrinsic whitening removes the stains on the enamel of the tooth, which can be caused by smoking, wine, tea or coffee.

How it is done

An intrinsic whitening process involves whitening or bleaching gel that contains hydrogen peroxide, which is absorbed into the tooth, making it appear lighter.

Extrinsic whitening involves a polishing, teeth cleaning or a whitening toothpaste, which are generally more abrasive than normal toothpastes, to remove the exterior stains.

What solution is for you

If you only have stains that you want to have removed, a teeth cleaning is your best option, as bleaching will not give the desired results. Bleaching gel should only be used if it is intrinsic, which is normally the case if no amount of teeth cleaning or whitening toothpaste does the trick. Your dentist will be able to advise you on what types of treatment their office offers and what would be the best for you.

What to expect

Please note that your teeth may feel abnormally sensitive after a whitening process. Each person will feel a different level of sensitivity to a treatment but it is a natural side effect, which normally wears off within 24 hours after the treatment. Large amounts of whitening gel over a short period of time can damage your teeth and make them translucent. Adhere to your dentist’s advice on your specific treatment. Whitening is not the answer to erase all the damage done to your teeth. The better and healthier your teeth were before whitening, the better the results.
Additionally, the effects of the whitening will not last forever as the discolouration of teeth is part of the natural aging process. Other factors such as acidic foods will yellow your teeth, so depending on your diet and how susceptible your teeth are to staining, the whitening could last between 6 months and 2 years.