As people age, it is common for teeth to become dull and yellow. This is due in part to age and genetics, but can also happen as a result of what you eat or drink. Coffee, tea, wine and dark cola, for example, can stain your teeth, as well as smoking or eating foods that contain food coloring. Brushing immediately after eating and drinking can help to prevent stains, but it’s typically not enough to remove the risk entirely. Fortunately, stained and yellow teeth don’t have to stay that way.

We are often asked about teeth whitening, especially by patients who are considering an at-home whitening procedure. Although there are home-based options available, we always recommend that you schedule a professional whitening. Why?

Professional bleaching produces better results. In fact, in-office whitening can brighten your smile up to 8 shades lighter. That’s 6 shades lighter than store-bought whitening products.

If you haven’t had your teeth whitened, we invite you to call (202) 793-7857 and schedule an appointment with our Washington dentist office. It’s quick, easy, and can be performed as part of your regular dental exam.

How Teeth Whitening Works

When a whitening solution is applied to the teeth, the hydrogen peroxide inside of the solution penetrates through the enamel. It then starts an oxidation process in which molecules are transformed to reflect less or no light. This makes them appear colorless, and teeth appear white. This process can be extremely effective for eliminating stains and can be repeated frequently with caution.

On occasion, the stains are too strong for a teeth bleaching procedure to work. When this happens, Dr. Hines can provide an alternative treatment. For example, patients can have dental veneers placed on the surface of teeth in order to cover dark stains. This is often preferable for patients who smoke since veneers are stain resistant and won’t yellow quickly like natural teeth. Still, it is ideal to try a teeth-whitening procedure first, before starting a cosmetic one.

At Premier Dental Care, we also recommend that patients have their teeth whitened before having other dental procedures completed since most of the materials used in dental restorations or for cosmetic purposes are stain-resistant and bleach resistant. A dental crown won’t stain or bleach, for example, but it’s created to match the shade of the surrounding teeth. If the surrounding teeth are yellow, these restorations will be created in a yellow shade. If the surrounding teeth are a brilliant white, the restoration will be as well. This makes the timing of teeth whitening procedures important. If you live in the 20012 area and know that you need a dental restoration, have your teeth whitening procedure scheduled first.

The Professional Teeth Whitening Difference

There are two main types of professional bleaching, and each rely on our medical-grade whitening solution that can safely transform the appearance of your teeth without the risk of sensitivity.

The first option is to visit the dentist for an in-office whitening treatment that works in around one hour. The second is to have custom whitening trays created that you can wear at your convenience. Patients are provided with a whitening solution to use at home, and the trays need to be worn for a couple of hours every night for a week or more. Once teeth have reached the perfect shade of white, a patient can stop wearing the trays. This portable solution can be taken anywhere, making it possible for people to whiten teeth while on vacation, business trips or after moving to a new city.

At Premier Dental Care, our patients enjoy both options. If you have questions about which option is best for you, we invite you to call (202) 793-7857 and schedule a consultation with our Washington dentist office.

Check out what others are saying about our teeth whitening services on Yelp: Teeth Whitening Washington, DC

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Should I whiten my teeth at home?

The ultimate goal is a smile that’s brilliantly white, but the best results require a whitening solution that’s powerful enough to do the trick. Although it may be cheaper and more convenient, most store-bought whitening kits are only strong enough to remove surface stains that leave your teeth looking a lighter version of yellow — not white. By contrast, the solution we use in our dental office is significantly stronger (think of it as prescription strength), which means it will penetrate below the surface of your enamel to remove deeper stains. If you live in the 20012 area, you can have whiter teeth, faster, by simply visiting our dental office.

When comparing the home vs. professional whitening solutions, consider your end goal. If your teeth are white but are starting to turn slightly yellow, you may see some positive results with a store-bought solution. If your teeth have any stains, however, it is far better to skip this step and head straight to our office for a professional teeth whitening. If you do want to start with an at-home kit, there are a few things you should be aware of.

At-home whitening solutions must be allowed to remain on your teeth long enough to work. For products like toothpastes or pens, the solution is washed off almost immediately, leaving no time to work — and likely making no difference in the whiteness of your teeth. Store-bought whitening strips can stay in place long enough in theory, but they tend to slip out of place and also lose their effectiveness.

That said, we do recommend toothpaste as part of an overall teeth-whitening treatment but not by itself. After professional whitening, the toothpaste can help your teeth stay bright.

The solution needs to get below the surface. When you’re comparing products, look for ones that say they penetrate below the enamel. Without penetrating below the enamel, you will never truly remove all of the stains. But when you schedule a professional bleaching, this will happen every time.

You can have professional teeth whitening at home. Your dentist can create trays using a professional whitening solution that you can then apply at home. It’s a best-of-both-worlds approach that will deliver impressive results and be more comfortable. Why? Store-bought whitening trays are one-size-fits-all, which means they’re typically loose, and the solution will leak out of them and into the back of your throat. This is entirely uncomfortable and completely avoidable when you use custom trays created by a dentist. If you live in Washington or the surrounding area, we invite you to visit our dental office to see how easy professional whitening is and how much more effective it can be than a store-bought solution.

What you should know about natural teeth bleaching solutions.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that natural equals good, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, some “natural” teeth whitening remedies — using lemons or limes, for example — use acid to remove stains or yellowing, which can actually damage your teeth through the process of erosion. The truth is that anything high in acid content can permanently damage the enamel on your teeth, so while they may look whiter, they may also become more sensitive.

Warning!

Do not try teeth bleaching at home without reading this warning. It is possible for you to permanently damage your teeth when whitening them at home. Each tooth is covered in a hard layer of enamel to protect what’s beneath it — porous dentin that contains your nerve endings. If the enamel wears away, the dentin will be exposed, and your teeth will become sensitive. And once that enamel is gone, you can’t replace it.

This problem is so widespread that dentists have coined the term “bleachorexia” to describe people who overuse in-store bleaching, leading to the destruction of enamel and dentin, turning the teeth to mush.

Eating and drinking with sensitive teeth can be incredibly uncomfortable, and the only way to permanently fix your teeth is to undergo a cosmetic procedure like dental bonding, or have dental veneers or crowns placed on your teeth. And just like underexposure to whitening solution won’t cause any results, overexposure can cause permanent damage through enamel erosion.

If you are looking to save money, at-home whitening may seem alluring. But leaving teeth whitening to the professionals at Premier Dental Care can help make sure that your teeth are whitened correctly by using the right amount of solution and removing it before reaching the point of irritation. It also reduces the risk of increased dental expenses down the road due to damaged teeth. If you live in the 20012 area, schedule a professional bleaching by calling (202) 793-7857 so that you can receive the results that you want without the risk.

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Professional Teeth Whitening FAQ

Q: Can I get my teeth whitened?
A: Most people are candidates for tooth whitening, but again, each situation is unique and it’s best to contact your dental professional.

Q: How long does tooth whitening last?
A: Typically you can expect whitening to last from six months to two years, although some studies report results lasting up to 10 years. Avoiding red wine, coffee, and smoking—all of which can cause staining—helps preserve the results.

Q: Is tooth bleaching safe?
A: Yes, many studies have proven that tooth whitening is safe. You can protect your tooth enamel by using calcium sulfate and fluoride.

Q: Does tooth whitening cause permanent tooth sensitivity?
A: Sensitivity from tooth whitening is always transient, which means that any sensitivity caused by the whitening goes away within one to two days and the patient returns to the state of sensitivity he or she had prior to starting the whitening process.

Q: How much does tooth whitening cost?
A: Prices vary widely for tooth whitening. Over-the-counter kits can cost as little as $20, with extensive in-office procedures approaching up to $1,000. If you want professional whitening, expect the price to be around $300 to $800. If you want an at-home bleaching kit from your dentist, expect to pay between $300 and $600. We’re happy to speak with you about our options for dental financing.

Q: Does tooth whitening affect fillings, veneers, or crowns?
A: Tooth whitening has little or no effect on restorative materials such as porcelain or crowns, but it may temporarily reduce the bond strength between enamel and composite restorations. For this reason, it’s a good idea to check with your dental professional before beginning any course of tooth whitening.

Q: Is the agent used in tooth whitening toxic?
A: Products developed from carbamide peroxide, hydrogen peroxide, and urea (substances found in every human cell), should be used cautiously to alleviate concern. Users who experience issues may not follow instructions and overuse the products for months or years.

There may also be more residual sensitivity with store-bought teeth bleaching kits due to the “one-size fits all” trays that come in the kit vs the custom fit trays from the dentist.