Teeth Whitening Abington & Jenkintown, PA
Everyone wants to have a bright white smile. It’s just that life can get in the way — that glass of red wine, the bowl of raspberries, even the occasional piece of dark chocolate. Foods, drinks, smoking, and even your genes all team up to leave your teeth yellow, stained, and dingy. At McDowell Dental Group we offer our patients in Abington, Jenkintown, Philidelphia, and the surrounding areas safe and effective teeth whitening.
Fortunately, we offer both in-office and professional-strength at-home whitening programs at McDowell Dental Group. These treatments will whiten your teeth up to eight shades.
Why do my teeth become stained?
The outer layer of our teeth, the enamel, is like our fingerprints — everyone’s is a little bit different. While the enamel on everyone’s teeth is porous, in some people it is more porous, so it stains more easily. Other people have darker enamel. Plus, as we age our enamel thins and it shows more of the dentin layer (the second layer of the teeth) through the enamel. This is why older people usually have somewhat yellower teeth.
These are the reasons our teeth become stained:
- Food — Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, soy sauce, even dark chocolates have natural pigments in them that can stain the enamel of your teeth.
- Drink — Coffee, tea, red wine, cranberry and other dark juices, and cola soft drinks all can stain your teeth.
- Cigarettes — Nicotine leaves yellow stains on your teeth.
- Fluorosis — If a child has too much fluoride, it can cause this condition, which stains the teeth. This staining is in the dentin layer of the tooth, not the enamel.
- Drugs — Heavily used as an antibiotic in the 60s and 70s, tetracycline permanently discolored the teeth of many children. Like fluorosis, this staining is in the dentin layer.
- Genes — The enamel on some people’s teeth is darker than others. Also some people have enamel that is more porous and stains easier.
What’s the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic staining of the teeth?
Not all staining occurs in the enamel. As mentioned above, fluorosis and drug reactions stain the dentin, the layer beneath the enamel. This is known as intrinsic staining. Teeth whitening isn’t effective on intrinsic staining, as the whitening agents generally work only on the enamel layer. The peroxide gels simply cannot penetrate deeply enough. For intrinsic stained teeth the solution is to cover them with porcelain veneers or, in the case of a single tooth or two, a porcelain crown.
Staining that occurs in the enamel layer of our teeth is known as “extrinsic” staining. This staining responds very well to teeth whitening efforts.
How does teeth whitening whiten teeth?
Our teeth stain gradually. It’s not as if you drink a glass of grape juice and your teeth are permanently purple. When you eat a handful of blueberries, for instance, the deep blue pigment in the berries penetrates the enamel of your teeth, which is porous. Your saliva rinses away most of the pigment, but a little bit may remain. Over time the stains build until your teeth become dingy and dull.
Teeth whitening agents (usually hydrogen peroxide) remove these stains similar to how detergent removes stains in clothes. The bleaching agent penetrates the enamel, just as the stain did, and it breaks down the stains. They are then washed away when we rinse. At McDowell Dental our teeth whitening programs whiten our patients’ teeth from three to eight shades.
How does in-office or professional at-home whitening compare with over-the-counter options?
There are various options you can buy at the supermarket to whiten your teeth, but they are not as effective as our in-office whitening and our professional at-home whitening kits at McDowell Dental Group. Why is that?
- The bleaching agent isn’t the same strength — We use professional strength hydrogen peroxide gel in our in-office whitening treatment, and caramide peroxide in our at-home gel. These both have far stronger bleaching agents than are available over the counter. These are not offered in over-the-counter products because without supervision or custom-fitted trays, it would be too easy to burn the gums.
- They aren’t consistent — When you have our in-office whitening, we carefully protect your lips and gums. Then we paint each individual tooth with the bleaching gel. The entire surface of each tooth is completely covered, so you know the whitening will be consistent and thorough. Our at-home whitening uses custom trays that we create from dental impressions of your teeth, so they fit precisely. This ensures the whitening gel achieves the best contact with your teeth. When you buy kits at the store, they use either plastic strips or one-size-fits-all trays that can’t provide the same fit or degree of coverage.
- It’s easy to burn your gums — Even though you’re not using the same strength of whitening gel in over-the-counter products versus what we use at McDowell, the imprecise fit of the application method still makes it easy to get the whitening gel on your gums. This can burn quite a bit.
What are my options for teeth whitening at McDowell Dental Group?
At McDowell, we offer both in-office and at-home whitening. Both achieve roughly the same degree of whitening; it just depends on what you prefer — completing the treatment in just an hour in our Abington offices or using our custom at-home trays for 30 minutes a day at home for one to two weeks.
- In-office whitening — Our in-office teeth whitening begins with a cleaning of your teeth and gums. Then we place a protective barrier over your lips and gums to avoid contact with the whitening agent. Next, we paint the hydrogen peroxide whitening gel onto your teeth, and we activate the gel with a special light. The gel is left on the teeth for 15 minutes and is then removed. This process is repeated three or four times. After the gel is removed for the last time, we apply a sensitivity-reducing fluoride paste/gel to your teeth. Our in-office whitening can whiten your teeth up to eight shades in around one hour.
- At-home whitening — For our at-home whitening, we begin by taking impressions of your teeth to use for the creation of customized whitening trays. These custom trays will ensure a tight, yet comfortable fit to maximize the contact between your teeth and the whitening gel. When your trays are ready, we provide you with syringes of carbamide peroxide gel. We then walk you through how to prepare your trays and wear them at home. At home, you syringe the whitening gel into the bleaching trays and then fit the trays onto your teeth. The custom trays keep the gel on your teeth and not leaking onto your gums. You wear the trays for 30 minutes to one hour every day for one to two weeks, depending on the degree of whitening needed.
Teeth Whitening FAQs
How long will my teeth stay white? »
Your home hygiene will also extend your results. You can use a whitening toothpaste that has ADA approval, and be sure to brush for two minutes twice-daily. And come see us every six months for your professional cleanings and exams. We use a coarse polishing agent during the last step of your cleaning, and it scrubs away stains.
Will teeth whitening make my teeth sensitive? »
Can teeth whitening damage your teeth? »
Does insurance cover teeth whitening? »