Whitening kits, toothpaste, trays, gels, and even LED lights are everywhere.People spend millions of dollars a year to achieve a bright white smile. With the scope of social media, it is practically a must to perfect your smile.
While you may desire a whiter smile, have you ever wondered how whitening products work? Knowing how a product whitens your teeth can not only help you use the product as directed, but it may also help you to keep your teeth whiter longer. At the very least, it will provide an understanding of the whitening process.
Know Your Layers
The enamel, the dentin, and the pulp are the three basic layers of your teeth.
The enamel is the hard outer layer of your teeth that protects the delicate inner portions of your teeth. Enamel is the strongest material in your entire body, making it possible for you to chew, bite, and tear your food. If the enamel is broken or worn away, the tooth is at risk of developing tooth decay.
Dentin is the middle layer that connects the pulp to the enamel. Within the dentin, small tubes allow connection from the innermost layer of the tooth to the outer protective layer. When the dentin is exposed, you can feel sensitivity, discomfort, or pain from hot or cold temperatures. In addition, the dentin carries some of the sensations you feel in your teeth.
The pulp is the most sensitive layer of your tooth. It is the portion that is “alive.” Within the pulp lies blood vessels and nerves, making it the most vulnerable part of your tooth. Since the pulp houses nerves, it can cause extreme pain if exposed. If the pulp is severely damaged, the tooth could die and need extraction.
The Whitening Process
Many things can cause your teeth to become stained. For example, drinking your morning coffee or eating your favorite spaghetti dish can leave stains on your teeth. The same way that certain foods and drinks can stain dishes or plastic containers is the same way it will stain your teeth. Some stains are surface-level–or extrinsic stains, and others occur inside the tooth, also called intrinsic stains.
For surface stains, you may be able to use an abrasive toothpaste to remove the stains, or you may see some whitening from routine dental cleaning. Your dentist will scrape away plaque as well as some surface stains.
Over time, surface stains can work their way into the inner layers of your teeth because the enamel is porous. While stains are generally harmless, many patients don’t like the appearance. Scrubbing or scraping away stains once they have reached the inner portions of the teeth is nearly impossible. This means that you must use a whitening agent to remove stains.
Many whitening products contain bleaching chemicals to get rid of set-in stains. Bleaching agents, such as hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide, move through the pores of the teeth to reach the stains in the inner layers. During this whitening process, hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide create a chemical reaction that breaks down the staining compounds and whitens your teeth.