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What Actually Happens to Your Teeth When You Get Them Whitened?

Teeth whitening has become a popular cosmetic dentistry treatment, as nothing makes you more confident than a picture-perfect sparkling white smile.

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When you’re teeth are well cared for, they will most likely be a healthy, slightly off-white colour. However, certain foods, medications, and lifestyle habits like smoking can cause your teeth to discolour. It’s also not uncommon for your teeth to start to discolour naturally as you age or if you have suffered some form of mouth trauma.


Luckily, there are steps you can take to re-invent your smile and minimise the appearance of any natural discolouration. Professional and at-home teeth whitening treatments are the go-to option if you want a whiter smile. But, what do these teeth whitening products actually do to your teeth? We explore!


The Real Reason Your Teeth Change Colour


When you’re born, your teeth have a natural, fresh layer of enamel that protects them from the outside world. This enamel starts to form when a baby is still just a foetus, and is what gives new baby and adult teeth their white colour.


As you get older, this white-coloured enamel starts to wear away. As it does, it reveals the darker tissue that surrounds the nerves and blood vessels in your teeth. Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent this, as even people who adhere to the best oral hygiene practices will inevitably start to lose their natural enamel. As the erosion takes place, your teeth will start to take on a dull grey colour or yellow tinge.


Staining also plays a big part in the discolouration of teeth. For instance, regularly drinking coffee, tea and soft drink can stain your teeth, even if you brush and floss, as required. Tobacco, antibiotics (especially when taken by children), and excessive fluoride exposure can also have harmful, lasting affects on your teeth.

How Does Teeth Whitening Actually Work?


Most teeth whitening treatments involve the application of some form of hydrogen peroxide solution. At-home treatments usually contain lower doses, while professional dental treatments will have slightly higher concentrations.


For at-home whitening, your dentist can provide you with a customised mouth tray (they make this from a mould of your teeth), and a whitening gel. All you need to do is apply some of the gel to the tray and wear it for a few hours each day. Similar treatments to this can be administered in a dental clinic with bleach that has a higher concentration of bleach (roughly 45 per cent).



Some more advanced whitening techniques even involve what’s generally referred to as a ‘laser light’, where a gel will be applied to your teeth before a light beam is positioned to shine directly over the gel. As you lie back in your seat, the light will penetrate the gel to whiten your teeth. This is made possible because as the light hits the gel it turns into a free radical oxygen that penetrates beneath the enamel on your teeth and attacks the colour pigments. This oxidation process vapourises the pigments within the dentin layer and brightens the tooth from the inside out. For this type of treatment, you will likely need to wear a special shield to protect your gums, but treatment will only take around an hour, and in most cases, your teeth would have whitened by up to ten shades in just one treatment.


You can also purchase a range of over the counter whitening treatments, but it’s best to ask your dentist for their recommendations if you’re planning on going down this route.


To learn more about the different teeth whitening procedures available and how they work, book a consultation with your dentist at Third Avenue Dental Centre today!

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