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Who Is a Candidate for Teeth Whitening?

By drfrey on June 08, 2014


A woman with a beautiful, bright smileA bright, spotless smile is a sign of health and beauty, and a goal that most people strive to achieve. It may seem difficult, given the many sources of discoloration our teeth are exposed to on a daily basis, but with the right professional and at-home care, that ideal smile is within your reach. While deeper stains may require concealment through porcelain veneers or similar treatment, most stains are more simply removed through a teeth whitening procedure. Given its immediate benefits and ease of treatment, it’s no wonder why teeth whitening is the most sought-after cosmetic procedure among American dental patients. If you are looking for a way to achieve a more radiant smile, you may also be a good candidate for whitening.

Types of Tooth Discoloration

When you come in for a consultation regarding tooth discoloration, one of the first details that must be determined is the type of discoloration that is present. There are generally two types of stains that affect teeth, which inform the treatment options that will follow.

  • Intrinsic discoloration is located below the enamel, within the inner dentin tissue of a tooth. Because of its location, teeth whitening products can rarely improve the appearance of such discoloration. Also called deep stains, these tend to be smaller but more distinct and identifiable. They may be caused by medication, injury, disease, or fluoride overexposure.
  • Extrinsic discoloration is located within the enamel of a tooth, and can be directly improved through the use of teeth whitening. Also called surfaces stains, these are usually yellow or brown blemishes that subtly cause teeth to discolor over time, especially near the gums. Extrinsic discoloration is primarily the result of food and drink, with smokers also suffering from tobacco stains.

Although not all stains are affected by teeth whitening, extrinsic discoloration is by far the most common type of staining, making whitening an effective and worthwhile procedure for most patients.

Who Can Undergo a Whitening Procedure?

Professional teeth whitening is a remarkably safe procedure, posing virtually no risk to a patient’s health and resulting in very few, short-lived side effects. Even patients who normally cannot undergo certain procedures, such as oral surgery, will likely be able to have their teeth whitened without worry. This is because whitening gel is topically applied and does not get absorbed beyond a tooth’s enamel, thereby leaving the rest of the tooth perfectly healthy. Still, a few factors must be considered before proceeding with whitening. Namely, patients must have:

  • Relatively healthy teeth: If teeth are discolored due to decay, patients should seek the appropriate treatment to restore their teeth to health. If enamel is eroded, this may also result in a yellowed appearance, and calls for protective treatment such as dental bonding or porcelain veneers.
  • Strong teeth: Even if enamel has not noticeably eroded, teeth may be more vulnerable from weakened enamel or previous cavities. Such teeth are likely to be more sensitive, and will therefore feel the side effects of whitening more acutely. If patients are concerned about heightened sensitivity after treatment, they should speak with their dentist about ways to help offset this discomfort.
  • Infrequent whitening treatments: If whitening gel is used too frequently, it may begin to erode enamel from teeth. Therefore, patients are advised to not undergo multiple whitening treatments in succession without input from their dentist.

Additional Considerations

If you are deemed a good candidate for teeth whitening, it is important to form accurate expectations regarding treatment. Professional whitening treatment often brightens patients’ smiles by eight shades, but individual results depend on the type of discoloration within teeth, the degree of discoloration, and how deeply it is embedded within enamel. Additionally, remember that whitening is not a way to prevent future stains, and therefore the results of whitening cannot be expected to last indefinitely. Finally, whitening gel is only able to remove stains from natural enamel, meaning any restorations will not be altered in shade. If your teeth become a noticeably brighter shade than visible restorations at the front of your mouth, you may want to also consider replacing said restorations for a more evenly colored smile.

Improve Your Smile with Us

If your teeth are strong and healthy, why not let your smile reflect that? Schedule an exam or consultation at our office to learn more about our cosmetic treatments and whether teeth whitening is a good option for you. 

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