Teeth Whitening- External Stains 

Introduction

Teeth whitening can lighten the shade of your teeth and brighten the appearance of your smile.  Teeth whitening systems remove or bleach external stains on your teeth.  Your teeth can become stained, darker, or discolored over time.  Teeth whitening systems are a safe way to make your teeth several shades lighter.  Teeth whitening may be done professionally at your dentist’s office, at home with professional products, or at home with over-the-counter products

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Symptoms
Plaque and tartar build-up can cause tooth discoloration.  The external surfaces of your teeth can become stained from contact with various products.  Your teeth can become discolored from smoking.  Certain foods may stain teeth, especially berries and soy sauce.  Coffee, tea, cola, and wine also cause staining.  Over time, your teeth become more vulnerable to staining.  Your teeth may appear darker and acquire a yellow, gray, red, or brown shade.

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Diagnosis
Your dentist can determine if you are a candidate for teeth whitening.  Your dentist will review your dental history and examine your teeth.  Your dentist will determine the present shade of your teeth by comparing your teeth to a shade guide. 
 
Tell your dentist about your concerns and expectations.  There are several teeth whitening products to choose from.  Your dentist can help you select the most appropriate option for you.
 
Some people may not be candidates for external teeth whitening.  Teeth whitening is not recommended for women that are pregnant or breast-feeding.  Teeth whitening can cause a tooth to become a different shade than caps, veneers, or fillings, which do not lighten.  People with stains on the inside of their teeth are best suited for internal teeth whitening methods.  Veneers and crowns are another option.  They cover teeth with internal stains.

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Treatment
Teeth whitening may be done at home with over-the-counter products, at home with professional products, or professionally at your dentist’s office.  Tooth whitening methods vary in strength, type, time, cost, and effectiveness.  Teeth whitening is not permanent.  Some methods last longer than others do.  All methods require reapplication or touch-ups over time.
 
Over-the-counter products are the least expensive option.  They produce more gradual and less dramatic results than professional products.  Whitening toothpastes remove stains on the surface of your teeth with repeated use.  Daily brushing fights new stains.  
 
Gel whiteners are applied to the teeth with a brush.  They contain peroxide that bleaches stains.  They create a more noticeable change than whitening toothpaste.  However, over-the-counter products contain less peroxide than professional products and produce more subtle results.
 
Whitening strips are another over-the-counter bleaching option.  They contain peroxide and are applied directly to the teeth for short periods during the day.  You can also get pre-molded and moldable mouth trays at your drug store.  The trays hold whitening gel against your teeth.  They are typically worn for several nights.
 
Your dentist can make you a custom mouth tray.  Molds of your teeth serve as a basis for designing a tray specifically for you.  Custom mouth trays are more effective at holding the treatment gel against your teeth and protecting your gums from irritation.  Professional strength gel contains higher levels of peroxide than over-the-counter products and can make your teeth several shades lighter.  Custom mouth trays are typically worn at night for a few weeks.  Once the tray is made, you just need to periodically purchase the whitening gel for touch-ups.
 
Professional teeth whitening methods performed by a dentist produce the fastest and most dramatic results.  Professional teeth whitening methods can make your teeth over eight shades lighter.  The newest methods can be completed in just over one hour.  Other methods require a series of short office visits.
 
Your dentist will place a protective covering over your lips and gums before applying whitening gel to your teeth.  The whitening gel contains hydrogen peroxide.  A lamp is focused on your teeth to activate the hydrogen peroxide.  The light helps the hydrogen peroxide penetrate your teeth and break up stains and discoloration.  In some cases, a laser may be used.
 
Teeth whitening is not permanent, but with proper care, your teeth can always remain lighter than they were before.  Wearing bright shades of lipstick with a blue or pink base makes women’s teeth appear even brighter.  Women should avoid orange or brown shades of lipstick.
 
You should brush your teeth twice daily and perform regular tooth flossing.  Your dentist can provide you with take home gel for occasional touch-ups.  Avoiding smoking and food or beverages that stain teeth can make your results last even longer.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.