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How Frequently Should I Whiten My Teeth?

We all want to have a bright beautiful smile.  With professional teeth whitening, we can make that happen!  With take-home whitening in custom-fitted carrier trays, you have a lot of freedom as to how often you whiten your teeth.  In this week’s blog, we will explain how frequently you should whiten to accomplish your specific smile goals.

How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

For our purposes in this blog, we will be discussing the method of teeth whitening that involves applying professional strength whitening gel to the teeth using custom-made carrier trays by your dentist.  Of course, there are many other teeth whitening options, including both over-the-counter treatments and in-office one-hour procedures.  Because we know that the best and most predictable results come from professional take-home teeth whitening, that is the method we will limit ourselves to in this article.

Professional strength teeth whitening gel uses a high concentration of a hydrogen peroxide chemical to change the color of the teeth.  Hydrogen peroxide is able to penetrate the enamel layer of teeth to reach the darkly pigmented compounds in the underlying dentin.  Peroxide oxidizes, or breaks down, these dark pigments, which lightens the color of the tooth.

Custom-fitted carrier trays are essential to a great whitening result.  In order for the gel to have the most optimal effect on the teeth, we must keep it in contact with the teeth for the prescribed length of time (higher concentrations of gel use shorter times, and lower concentrations take longer).  Because your dentist uses an exact replica of your teeth to fabricate the custom-fitted trays, they provide perfect coverage and space for just the right amount of whitening gel.  These trays hold the gel in contact with the teeth as long as they are in your mouth, producing the best whitening result.

Whitening for Initial Color Change

When you are using professional take-home whitening for the first time, you can expect it to take ten to fourteen days of whitening every day to achieve the maximum whitening result.  If you follow the instructions regarding the length of time to wear the gel in your trays, you should see noticeable color change in three to four applications.

For most types of tooth discoloration, the most whitening you can achieve with take-home whitening will occur within two weeks.  However, it is important to understand that not all teeth staining will “follow the rules”.  There are some types of discoloration that take longer to whiten, so you may need to persist in whitening for multiple weeks to achieve the best result.

Altering Your Whitening Frequency

Some patients may need to alter the frequency of teeth whitening using their professional take-home products due to the development of the side effect of sensitive teeth.  Tooth sensitivity is a very common side effect with teeth whitening.  Thankfully, it is also a completely reversible side effect.

If whitening the teeth every day causes uncomfortable sensitivity, we recommend that you alter the frequency of your whitening applications.  For example, if you were whitening every day, alter the schedule to whiten every other or every third day.  Having a longer break between whitening applications allows the nerves inside the teeth time to calm down.

Whitening for Maintenance

When it comes to maintaining the brightness of your teeth, we follow a much different regimen.  The regimen for maintenance whitening also differs for each individual depending on specific needs and goals.

The need for maintenance whitening depends on the relapse, or color change, in the teeth over time.  For some people, the teeth relapse relatively quickly, and this is usually due to habits that discolor the teeth.  The most common habits are tobacco use or high intake of coffee, tea, and red wine.  These will all cause the teeth to re-stain relatively quickly.

Someone who does not have any teeth-darkening habits may not need to perform any maintenance whitening for several years.  The decision to perform maintenance is truly up to each individual.  If you look in the mirror and feel like your teeth are not as bright as you prefer, do some maintenance whitening.

For maintenance, we recommend using your gel in the trays for the prescribed length of time for a minimum of three days in a row.  Again, if you need to alter the frequency to alleviate the discomfort of sensitive teeth, that is fine.  Just shoot for three to four applications of whitening.

Tips to Keep Teeth White Longer

In addition to performing maintenance teeth whitening, there are a few other steps you can take to keep your smile whiter for longer.

Avoid Dark-Colored Foods and Beverages

A great majority of the staining people accumulate on the teeth is due to dark-colored foods and beverages.  Those who consume large amounts of coffee tend to have darker yellow teeth.  By avoiding these items, you can keep your smile whiter for longer.

If you must have your coffee, try iced coffee through a straw.

Stop Smoking

We always want everyone to stop smoking because of its dangerous effects on your health.  We also know that it is a major contributor to teeth staining.  If you can avoid smoking, your teeth will stay much whiter for much longer.

Avoid Acidic Foods and Beverages

Many people do not understand the danger of acidic foods and drinks.  Acid is tooth enamel’s kryptonite!  It can slowly erode away the hardest substance in the human body.  When enamel becomes thinner, it becomes more translucent, showing the underlying dentin through and appearing much more yellow.

Protect the thickness and health of your enamel by avoiding acids.

Use a Whitening Toothpaste with an Electric Toothbrush

When we do pick up superficial stains on the teeth, we can polish them away with great oral hygiene.  The best polishing action (at home) is with a whitening toothpaste on an electric toothbrush.  The mild abrasiveness of the whitening toothpaste will polish away surface stains, aided by the rapid motions of the electric toothbrush’s bristles.

Make sure that you only select a whitening toothpaste with the American Dental Associations Seal of Acceptance.  That means it has been tested for safety and will not damage your teeth.

More Questions about Teeth Whitening?

Call Designer Smiles and schedule a consultation with Dr. Ann.  She can answer any questions you have about teeth whitening and help you achieve the best results with professional whitening products.  We love creating beautiful smiles!