What Causes Dental Stains?
Tooth discoloration is typically divided into two main categories: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic stains are only on the surface of the teeth. These result from pigmented residue buildup in the protein film that covers the enamel. Intrinsic stains, on the other hand, occur beneath the surface when stain-causing particles bypass the exterior of the tooth and accumulate within the enamel and dentin (layer of dense, bony tissue beneath the enamel). In most cases, your extrinsic or intrinsic dental stains result from food and drink (think coffee, tea, soda, and red wine), tobacco usage, poor oral care, trauma or disease, or medical treatments.
Professional Whitening Options
Depending on your timeline and intended outcome, there are multiple professional teeth whitening options available.
Option 1: Take-Home Kits: Take-home teeth whitening kits, which you can request from your dentist, include whitening gel and custom mouth trays. These offer the convenience of professional whitening at your own leisure, but they take longer than in-office whitening to achieve the same results.
Option 2: On-the-Go Kits: These kits are similar to take-home kits, except they don’t include custom trays. Instead, your kit will come with premade, pre-filled, adaptable trays that are ready for use whenever you are.
Option 3: In-Office Whitening: In-office whitening procedures are simple and non-invasive. A dentist will apply a chemically activated whitening gel to your teeth. In just one to two hours, your teeth will lighten anywhere from two to eight shades. Sometimes, a dentist will have patients follow up with a take-home kit.
One advantage of in-office whitening is that your dentist will use a higher-concentration bleaching agent, so the results will be immediate. Your dentist will monitor the conditions to make sure the procedure is safe, controlled, and pain-free.
Prepping Your Teeth
Your dentist will want to evaluate your teeth and identify any dental problems you may be experiencing, which will need to be treated prior to whitening. From there, he or she will perform a complete cleaning to remove tartar and buildup. You will then be ready to schedule your in-office treatment or select your at-home or on-the-go kit. Many dentists also recommend switching to a desensitizing toothpaste up to a month before you whiten.