Cosmetic Dentists, Whitening, And Why At-Home Options Don't Always Work

What's the best way to whiten your teeth? Cosmetic dentists provide in-office whitening treatments that can brighten your smile. But that's not the only option the professional offers. Before you buy a box of strips from a big box store, take a look at the possible causes of dental discoloration and why you should call the dentist first.

You May Have Dental Decay or an Injury

Many at-home whitening kits, strips, gels, and pastes brighten teeth or remove some surface stains. But these DIY options won't whiten every tooth every time. Some stains or dark areas won't respond well to over the counter (or OTC) whitening products. Intrinsic staining is an internal process. Cavities and injuries can result in dark teeth. An extrinsic, or external, at-home whitening product won't necessarily change a decayed or injured tooth's color.

Along with cavities and injuries, some types of medications can also lead to staining or darkening. Like other intrinsic issues, whitening strips, gels, and other products won't work well for a medication-related color change. If you have one dark tooth or suspect an intrinsic cause, consult a dentist before you choose a whitening process. Instead of a topical treatment, the dentist may recommend a restoration (such as a filling or a crown) or porcelain dental veneers.

You May Have Enamel Erosion

Do your teeth look yellow or have yellowish patches? The pearly white part of each tooth is dental enamel. It protects your teeth and gives you a bright, white smile. Age, overly acidic foods, sugary foods, chronic acid reflux, low salivary flow, teeth grinding behaviors, and some types of medications can thin or erode enamel.

Without enamel, the underlying yellow dentin layer is left exposed. This can mimic the look of staining due to some types of foods or beverages. Even though enamel erosion may look like staining, the treatment for both issues is not the same. At-home whitening products won't correct enamel erosion and won't give you the bright results you want. Like decay or injury-related discoloration, you may need veneers to cover the yellow area.

You May Need Additional Treatment

Dental decay, internal tooth injuries, and enamel erosion often require more than just an aesthetic fix. While the dark or off-color may seem like the primary problem, the cause behind the staining is the true oral issue. Before the dentist helps you to whiten your teeth, they may need to remove decay or asses an injury. Not only will a visit to the dentist help you to achieve the bright, white smile you want, it will also increase your overall dental health.

Contact a local cosmetic dentist to learn about your options.