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Teeth whitening is the easiest and most inexpensive way to improve the cosmetic appeal of your smile – it is also one of the fastest.
If you are thinking about getting a whiter, brighter smile, you might wonder how long teeth whitening takes. The answer is: it depends.
Teeth whitening is a chemical process that uses whitening agents to lift stains from the surface of teeth. Stores offer a variety of teeth whitening products that you can use at home. Your dentist also offers professional teeth whitening. The type of teeth whitening you choose can affect treatment time.
Other factors can affect how long it takes to whiten your teeth. Some types of stains are tougher to lift from the surface of your teeth, for example, and the original color and condition of your teeth can also play a role.
What Causes Stained Teeth?
Teeth may darken and stain for a variety of reasons. Some causes of stained teeth are controllable, while others are not. You can prevent stained teeth by avoiding certain foods and beverages, for example, but you cannot always avoid taking medications that stain teeth.
Foods and drinks that cause stained teeth:
- Fruit juices
- Tomato-based sauces
- Balsamic vinegar
- Soy sauce
Lifestyle choices that can stain your teeth:
- Tobacco use (smoking or chewing)
- Poor dental hygiene
Other causes of stained teeth:
- Dental materials
- Childhood trauma to the teeth that disrupts the development of enamel
- Trauma that decreases blood flow to the teeth or that causes the tooth’s nerve to die
Types of teeth stains
Dentists group tooth discoloration into three main categories according to the cause of the stain and the part of the tooth the staining affects. Some types of tooth stains take longer to remove.
Extrinsic teeth stains
These stains are on the surface of the tooth. Caused by leftover pigments from food or drink, these stain particles build up in the film of protein that covers the tooth enamel. Tobacco use may also cause extrinsic teeth stains.
Mild to moderate extrinsic stains respond well to dental cleanings and brushing with whitening toothpaste, but whitening may take several weeks. Professional teeth whitening can take care of severe extrinsic teeth stains in much less time – often in just one visit.
Intrinsic teeth stains
These stains occur beneath the surface of the tooth. Intrinsic teeth stains develop when stain-causing particles make their way through the outer surface of the tooth and build up within the tooth enamel. Excessive exposure to fluoride may also cause intrinsic stains, especially in children.
Intrinsic teeth stains are more stubborn and trickier to remove than are extrinsic stains, so it often takes longer to whiten this type of discolored teeth. Professional cleaning can remove intrinsic stains faster.
Age-related teeth stains
Sitting just beneath the enamel is the dentin, which is a yellow tissue that makes up the bulk of the tooth. When we are young, thick enamel covers up the yellow color of dentin, so our teeth look white. As we age, though, the layer of tooth enamel thins to allow more of the yellow dentin to show through. Thinning enamel and yellowing teeth also make intrinsic and extrinsic stains more noticeable.
Teeth Whitening Time Depends on Which Teeth Whitener You Use
The amount of time it takes to whiten your teeth depends largely on the teeth whitening method you choose.
All toothpastes help remove surface stains from tooth enamel, but whitening toothpastes contain chemicals that make teeth appear whiter. It may take several weeks to see the desired results, which may fade when you stop using the whitening toothpaste.
Natural teeth whiteners
Baking soda, charcoal, hydrogen peroxide, apple cider vinegar and strawberries can all whiten your teeth, but with some drawbacks.
Over-the-counter whitening strips
These strips contain hydrogen peroxide that lifts stains from tooth enamel. It may take seven days or longer to see the results, which typically last just a few months.
Whitening trays and gels
You can get whitening trays and gels from a store or from your dentist. The trays hold whitening gels against the surface of your teeth, immersing your teeth in the bleaching agent.
Whitening agents release oxygen molecules that react with the discolored molecules in your teeth. This reaction breaks the bonds that hold the discolored molecules to your teeth, transforming the stain into a colorless material.
Based on the strength of the whitening agent, you should start seeing results from whitening trays and gels in about a week, and the full results in two to four weeks.
Professional teeth whitening
Professional teeth whitening can make your teeth their whitest, and do it faster than home whitening methods.
Many dentists offer professional take-home kits that look like over-the-counter whitening kits, but contain a concentrated bleach solution. Depending on the strength of the solution, professional take-home kits provide results in about 1 to 2 weeks.
How to Get Better Teeth Whitening Results Faster
Avoid tooth-staining food, beverages and lifestyle choices
The cleaner you keep your teeth, the faster teeth whitening works.
Undergo professional teeth whitening before home treatments
Home whitening treatments work more quickly on mild surface stains that are easy to remove. Professional teeth whitening removes all stains, giving you a great starting point the next time you whiten your teeth.
Consult with your dentist, even if you intend on doing teeth whitening at home
Your dentist can help you determine the underlying cause of your teeth darkening, yellowing or staining. A dental health professional can also help you understand if your tooth discoloration is the result of lifestyle choices, such as drinking coffee, or is a sign of a dental problem.
For more information on how long it takes teeth whitening to work, consult with the dental professionals at Westerville Dental Associates. Our team of dentists can give you a white, brighter smile quickly and safely.