This is a question I get asked frequently. Will teeth whitening damage my teeth? The answer is no. The enamel of the tooth is made up of a series of rods. The space in between these rods is filled with the matrix. The matrix is made up of a series of proteins and minerals and also collects the stain built up from coffee, red wine, etc. The function of the teeth whitening ingredient is to dissolve this matrix therefore removing the stains, proteins and minerals. Your own saliva will then remineralize the enamel within a few hours.
Hence, teeth whitening agents don’t affect the structure of the enamel which is made up of the rods. Instead, it dissolves the matrix in between the rods, forming channels whereby the whitener penetrates deeper into the tooth. The longer the teeth whitening agents are left in contact with the tooth the more effective the result will be. (Read that statement again!) If you understand that, you can answer some of your own questions as to what whitening is better and what treatment works the best.
However, first you have to know that there are two primary active ingredients. The first is carbamide peroxide and the other is hydrogen peroxide. Almost all whitening agents will list these as there active ingredients. The second thing you have to know is the percentage concentration of the active ingredient. For example, 20% carbamide peroxide will be more effective in whitening than 15% carbamide peroxide. However, the higher percentage will also likely cause greater sensitivity. This is where the difference between the brands makes the most difference. Different brands will have different desensitizers blended into their teeth whitening formula. Therefore, if your teeth tend to be sensitive, it is better to look for lower percentages in active ingredients.
The lower the percentage of active ingredient the longer you will have to keep the whitening gel in contact with your teeth. This could mean for longer hours (4-6 hours is best) or for more days (5-14 days is usually recommended). The goal is always to get the best outcome with the least amount of grief. Most patients want their teeth very white, very fast. They come in for the professional in-office treatment and expect to get it all done in one hour. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. The in-office treatment uses the same active ingredients as the other treatments offered just at a much higher percentage. The light/laser used in the office just makes the penetration of the whitener go faster. Therefore the in-office treatment is a great “jump start” in your teeth whitening treatment, but it is not ideal as a stand-alone treatment.
The ideal treatment recommended is a one-hour in-office teeth whitening session followed by three to five days of a professional at-home whitening treatment. The benefit is 2 fold. First, you get a jump start on the whitening so you see an immediate result which will motivate you to continue. Secondly, it saves time by not having to do the whole treatment at home. One hour in the office is equivalent to 3 to 5 days of the professional at-home treatment. However, following up the in-office treatment with the at-home treatment is critical to the success of the teeth whitening procedure. By following up with the at-home treatment, you will allow greater penetration of the whitener through the enamel which will give you a more permanent result. There is one additional benefit- the maintenance. If you followed the protocol correctly, now the maintenance becomes very easy.
Because the teeth whitening procedure is not permanent, it will require maintenance. By following the above-mentioned protocol, you now have custom made at-home whitening trays and probably a little left over whitening gel. The maintenance is now easy. Do the professional at-home whitening for one or two days every three to six months. It can be done more often if you have extensive habits like smoking, drinking red wine, tea, or eating chocolate. These will all cause your teeth to stain faster. Really anything that will stain a white shirt will stain your teeth. The best advice is to brush your teeth after every meal. If you are out in a restaurant, at a bar or at a friend’s for dinner, then at least drink lots of water after you eat and drink. This will help dilute some of the stain that will attach to your teeth. Check out my next blog post, The White Smile Diet, which will tell you about the foods you can eat more of to keep your teeth looking their whitest…coming soon.
For more information on this you can visit our website at www.biscaynedentalgroup.com. Or better yet, visit us in person at our beautiful new location in Miami, FL. We are located on Biscayne Blvd. between NE 23rd & 24th Street at 350 NE 24 ST. Suite 105 Miami, FL 33137 (see map).
Don’t forget to ask about our FREE WHITENING FOR LIFE special. You don’t want to miss it. Hope to see you soon.