Teeth Whitening is a dental procedure that’s done for cosmetic purposes. It helps make your teeth whiter and your smile brighter. It’s a process where the natural color of the teeth is lightened without the loss of any part of the tooth structure. It is one of the main treatments for discolored teeth. 

Most of us can’t resist the allure of having a bright smile especially because your smile is your best accessory. This explains why so many people pay reasonable sums of money to whiten their teeth. Unfortunately, in their haste to have their teeth looking whiter, some people fall into the hands of unqualified people. This can lead to lots of unnecessary complications and even pain. 

Let’s take a closer look at teeth whitening and everything you need to know about it. 

Why do people whiten their teeth?

Just like people are born with different hair colors, eye colors and skin colors, the color of the teeth differs from person to person. Some people are born with naturally whiter teeth while some are born with teeth that aren’t as white. 

A lot of people love to whiten their teeth to improve their color as well as to make themselves look good and feel better. Even though it’s said to be a purely cosmetic procedure, teeth whitening can also be recommended by the doctor for cases with extreme discoloration. It can also be recommended as a mental health measure for people affected mentally and emotionally by the color of their teeth.

Do you need Teeth Whitening? 

You might have seen those tooth whitening videos on social media with the ‘before’ and ‘after’ collages where the teeth move from a dull color to a shade five or eight times whiter than the original color of the tooth. Seeing the after-effects of the process can make you eager to whiten your teeth as well.

But before you hurry to whiten your teeth, you should know that not everyone needs to undergo the whitening process to get whiter teeth. 

This is because not all causes of tooth discoloration require the whitening process. For some teeth, a simple dental cleaning procedure is enough to see whiter teeth. For others, advanced dental procedures may be the only solution to that particular case of tooth discoloration.

What can make my tooth discolored? 

There are several causes of tooth discoloration that can be broadly categorized into two different causes. 

Before we look at these two categories, let’s correct a common misconception.

 Sometimes, tooth discoloration can be caused by calculus. This is the accumulated debris or dirt on the tooth surface which has become hardened over time. This means that it’s not easy to remove calculus with a toothbrush. Calculus can be discolored by food and other substances in the mouth. Over time, the initially white-colored debris can become blackish, yellowish, greenish, or brownish depending on the causative agent of discoloration. 

Picture of the teeth with yellowish calculus

In this case, Scaling and Polishing, a painless dental cleaning procedure is needed. The removal of the calculus will reveal the whiter tooth surface. 

A lot of people who think they need to have their teeth whitened actually only need Scaling and Polishing done. In fact, scaling and Polishing should be done before teeth whitening in all cases except if it’s already been done in the past three months. 

Now that we’ve busted that myth, let’s look at the types of tooth discoloration 

Extrinsic stains: These are stains that affect the surface of the tooth. They lie on the surface of the tooth and can be removed with a mechanical force in some cases. They usually occur because of exposure to substances that can leave discoloration on the outer surface of the tooth. Causes of extrinsic stains include coffee stains, tea stains, stains caused by smoking, exposure to food colorants, etc. 

Intrinsic stains: These stains are located inside the tooth itself. Sometimes they are present from childhood and may be caused by several things. One popular cause is fluorosis, which occurs when your teeth are exposed to a high level of fluoride, especially in childhood. The use of certain antibiotics while in the womb can also affect the teeth of the baby as they erupt. Trauma is another popular cause of tooth discoloration. If a tooth has experienced any form of trauma, it has a tendency to darken as the tooth affected starts to die. 

So we can see that tooth whitening is not as simple as it seems and requires some careful consideration before being done. 

Do you want to know if teeth whitening is safe for your teeth? Do you want to find out if it has any negative side effects? 

Watch out for part 2 of this article! You can check this article on the blog to know more about the things you do that are bad for your teeth.

sparkly gif showing 2 hearts intertwined with transitioning colurs
Dr. Omotola Oke