How Does Teeth Whitening Work?


Teeth typically discolor over time. There are many factors that contribute to the discoloration including lifestyle habits, taking certain types of medicines and even just natural wear. Palo Alto Oral Health can help to eliminate tooth discoloration, giving you back a brighter smile. However, how exactly does teeth whitening work?

Intrinsic Vs. Extrinsic Stains


There are two types of stains that can affect your teeth, intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic stains are those that occur only on the surface of your teeth. These types of stains are caused by what you eat and drink. They can also be caused by smoking and other tobacco products. Intrinsic stains are those that originate inside of the tooth. This type of discoloration can result from overexposure to fluoride as a child, taking antibiotics such as tetracycline at an early age, and dental trauma. As you get older, you may experience a combination of these types of discoloration. Stains can accumulate on the outside of your teeth while the dentin naturally yellows and your enamel thins as you age.

Removing Surface Stains


Whitening toothpaste is often used for removing surface stains. These toothpastes have abrasives that gently scrub your teeth as you brush. This breaks up the surface stains to remove them. Because toothpaste only removes minor surface stains, the results are generally minimal. You should also be careful to use a whitening toothpaste that will not damage your tooth enamel. It is also important to keep in mind that whitening toothpaste cannot remove deeper stains or stains that have affected the color of your dentin.

Changing the Actual Tooth Color


To change the color of your teeth, bleaching is needed. With this type of whitening, the bleaching agent contains either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide as the active ingredient. These ingredients break down to form oxygen, which then enters into the enamel to whiten the color of the teeth.

Bleaching can be done in many ways. There are professional treatments as well as over the counter ones. Professional options include an in-office procedure as well as whitening trays that enable you to whiten at home. Professional options contain high concentrations of the active ingredient, with in-office whitening containing the highest. In-office bleaching agents typically contain between 25% and 40% of hydrogen or carbamide peroxide. Whiteners used with take-home trays are not quite as high, but they are still higher than over the counter options, which typically contain around 5% to 15% of hydrogen or carbamide peroxide. Lower concentrations mean that more applications are needed to achieve your desired results.

How Safe is Teeth Whitening?


Many patients are worried about the safety of whitening. Generally, whitening is very safe. When it comes to professional options, the higher concentrations of active ingredients can be harmful to your gums. We take the necessary precautions, however, to protect this sensitive tissue during your treatment. With take-home trays, the lower concentrations are safer. The trays are designed to keep the gel away from your gums as well. The low concentrations of over the counter whiteners make them very safe for use.

If you are interested in learning more about teeth whitening to improve the beauty of your smile, call Palo Alto Oral Health at (650) 250-4350 to schedule an appointment today.

Our office proudly offers a variety of services to help you achieve your best smile at any age. Give us a call at (650) 250-4350 and let us help you find the right approach for your dental solution.



2875 Middlefield Rd Suite #1
Palo Alto, CA 94306-2548


(650) 250-4350
Palo Alto Oral Health | www.paloaltooralhealth.com | (650) 250-4350
2875 Middlefield Road Suite #1, Palo Alto, CA 94306
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