Teeth WhiteningAre you looking for a quick, non-invasive way to enhance your smile? Teeth whitening may very well be the answer.  More and more people are paying for brighter, whiter teeth, but you may ask how teeth whitening works and if it is it safe.

Teeth whitening uses a bleaching agent, usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, to make your teeth lighter, but it can’t make your teeth brilliant or unnaturally white, although it can lighten the existing color impressively by several shades.

Teeth whitening should only be performed by a dentist or another regulated dental professional, such as a dental hygienist or dental therapist, on the prescription of a dentist.  DIY home teeth whitening kits can also be purchased, but these may carry risks.

Why do teeth darken?  Some of the reasons are:

  • Food and drink with intense color pigments like tea, cola, and red wine
  • Tobacco use
  • Age (yellowish dentin – the tooth’s core material – shows through thinning enamel)
  • Trauma (the body’s reaction to injury is adding dentin)
  • Medications (antihistamines, antipsychotics, HBP meds)

Not all types of stains can be removed and are classified in two types: intrinsic (coming from the inside of the tooth) and extrinsic (on the surface).  Extrinsic stains are the most common, and the easiest to remove, and professional whitening is most effective on this type.

There are several types of whitening available, from over-the-counter products like toothpaste and whitening strips, to things a dentist provides like home-use trays and gels, used over a period of time, and in-office whitening, using a relatively high-concentration peroxide gel, applied to the teeth by the dentist or trained technician after the gums have been protected with a paint-on rubber dam.  Laser whitening (using laser or LED light to activate the chemical) may be included.  With in-office treatments you might experience a temporary increase in sensitivity to temperature, pressure, and touch because of the high-concentration bleach that is used.  In-office treatment generally takes about an hour

Some home kits may not contain enough of the whitening product to be effective, and if a dental professional is not providing the trays, custom made to fit your teeth, the tray may not fit tightly enough to prevent some of the bleaching gel leaking out onto your gums and into your mouth, which can cause blistering and sensitivity.

Teeth whitening is not permanent, lasting from a few months up to three years or so, but this varies, depending on if you smoke or drink red wine, tea, coffee, etc., which can all stain your teeth.  These should be avoided for at least a week after whitening.

Before starting any whitening treatment, you might want to ask your dentist for a realistic idea of the results you are likely to achieve and how long it should take to achieve them.  Final results may be seen approximately two weeks after treatment.

If you are interested in teeth whitening in Costa Rica, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.