Q: I want to whiten my teeth. I am confused about all the options. Can you advise me?

A:  A whiter smile can make you look younger, more vibrant, and more confident. Teeth whitening is an easy way to improve your smile. There are some things to consider though. Firstly, why are the teeth dark? For some people the natural color of their teeth is darker than they would like. Some other reasons for dark teeth are staining from food and drinks like tea and coffee. Decayed or decalcified teeth will appear dark. Problems with the formation of tooth enamel can make teeth stained gray, white or brown. Smoking causes a lot of tenacious stain to adhere to the teeth. Old dental restorations can stain or turn color. Some medications, especially those given to young children, can lead to dark internal tooth stain when the permanent teeth are forming. And also trauma can make a tooth turn dark. 

It is important to know why your teeth are dark. If it is any of the reasons above except stain or the natural shade of your teeth, simply whitening may not give you the result you are looking for. That is why I always recommend talking to your dentist about whitening your teeth. If there are dental problems or dental restorations like fillings or crowns, the whitening will not work.

Whitening works by using one of two products. One is hydrogen peroxide and the other is carbamine peroxide. These agents break down the stains to make your teeth appear brighter.

Secondly, there are several options to choose to whiten your teeth. The whitening that a dentist can offer is stronger than you can get from over the counter products. A dentist usually offers two types of whitening. In Office Whitening is done  by a dentist or hygienist directly on your teeth and takes about an hour. Alternatively, Custom Whitening Trays can be made from impressions and you can use them at home for an hour a day for a week or two and get similar results. Over The Counter products are not as strong, but for brightening up your smile, these work well and are cost effective.

Lastly, there are some precautions to take when whitening your teeth. In the dental office, care is taken to not get the strong whitening gel on your gums because that can be irritating. Also any type of whitening can cause mild to moderate temporary tooth sensitivity. Overuse of whitening trays or over the counter products can damage the enamel and even make the teeth appear gray.

It is always best to consult your dentist or hygienist. When used properly teeth whitening is safe and effective and give you a bright smile.