It’s the most popular cosmetic dental treatment today, but even if you’ve had the procedure, you might still wonder how, exactly, does teeth-whitening work? For that matter, shouldn’t cleaning your teeth every day stop them from staining?
Unfortunately, teeth can stain even when you meticulously brush and floss them twice a day, and the reasons vary. Fortunately, most teeth stains develop on the outer surfaces of your teeth, and can be effectively erased with a simple teeth-whitening procedure.
How Do Teeth Stain?
The outer layer of your teeth, called enamel, protects the main structures of your teeth, called dentin, from oral bacteria, food, pressure, and other irritants. However, enamel is semi-translucent, and the color of your teeth is actually dictated by the dentin underneath it. When teeth stain, the stains often develop on the surface of enamel, but can make the entire tooth seem discolored.
The Secret to Brighter Teeth
In essence, professional teeth-whitening is like spring-cleaning the surfaces of your teeth. While brushing and flossing them removes the day-to-day buildup of plaque and food debris, teeth-whitening does what elbow grease and toothpaste can’t by chemically breaking up teeth stains. The powerful but safe peroxide-based agent systematically breaks up food and other deposits that have developed on the top layers of tooth enamel. Then, it oxidizes and brightens the top layers of dentin underneath to restore their youthful glow.
In some cases, discoloration might develop within the dentin underneath enamel, and teeth-whitening may not suffice to erase them. If so, then your dentist can recommend a more appropriate cosmetic treatment, like tooth bonding or porcelain veneers, to brighten and improve your smile.