Teeth bleaching or whitening lightens teeth and assists in the removal of stains and any present discoloration. It is one of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures in the market due to the drastic aesthetic improvement it gives the teeth in relation to how affordable and simple the procedure is.

Why bleach your teeth?

Put simply, the color of natural teeth is normally brought about by the reflection and eventual scattering of light off the enamel; this is then combined with the color of the dentin under the enamel. Generally, the thickness and overall smoothness of the enamel is affected by your genes. Thin enamel allows for more of the dentin color to show through whereas thick enamel allows less of the dentil color to show. Every day, a pellicle (thin coating) does form on the enamel which also picks up significant stains. The enamel does also contain pores which can attract and hold stains.

Aging has also been known to make teeth less bright and appear more stained since the dentin gets darker and the enamel gets thinner with age. In addition, it is also possible to have intrinsic stains. These are stains that are inside the tooth. Apart from the above, the use of tobacco, failure to take good care of your teeth by brushing daily, trauma  as well as drinking dark colored liquids such as red wine, tea, cola and coffee have been known to darken and stain teeth. It is worth mentioning though that tooth whitening is most effective on extrinsic (surface) stains.

How to prepare for the procedure

Before you whiten or bleach your teeth, there are certain things one needs to take into consideration. First and foremost, there are certain dental issues that significantly affect the success or otherwise of tooth bleaching. If you have cavities, then they have to be filled or treated before whitening. This is mainly because the bleach or whitening solution can seep through the cavity and reach the inner parts of the tooth.

It is also important to note that if you have receding gums or tooth decay, whitening of your teeth may make them sensitive. In addition, the yellowing or discoloration caused by receded gums cannot be whitened through bleaching. Whitening will also not work on veneers, ceramic or porcelain crowns.

How it is done

When you go for teeth bleaching, the first thing we may do is to photograph your teeth. This helps us to closely monitor the overall progress of the treatment. We may also want to know what may have caused the staining to eliminate any possible health disorders. It is recommended that the dental hygienist clean your teeth so as to remove any bacteria, food particles as well as any other foreign substances that may have built up on the teeth. Once the teeth have been cleaned, the whitening procedure can then start.

There are two main types of teeth whitening procedures. Non-vital whitening is done on a tooth that doesn’t have a live canal (a tooth that has had root canal treatment) on the other hand; vital whitening is performed on teeth that have live nerves. For vital whitening, the most common type uses a gel that’s applied to the tooth surface. The gel contains a form of hydrogen peroxide.

Vital teeth bleaching can also be done at home. In such a scenario, the dentist will prepare impressions of your lower and upper teeth and then make custom mouthpieces that fit you. You will then fill each mouthpiece with the whitening gel provided by your dentist and wear the mouthpiece at home for an hour each day. This usually takes 1-2 weeks to reach your maximum white shade.

For non-vital whitening, the dentist does place a whitening agent inside the tooth and then places a temporary filling over it. The tooth is normally left like this for several days before the temporary filling is removed. Depending on the color shade you are looking for, this procedure can be done several times.


Generally, there are no serious side effects associated with teeth bleaching. However, women are advised not to whiten their teeth while pregnant since the effect of the whitening materials on the fetal development is not known. Some people may also have sensitive teeth for a short while; this sensitivity may be accompanied with mild gum irritation. All of these minor complications resolve in a few days. If you have any questions about teeth whitening services in Gaithersburg, MD or any of our other comprehensive dental services give us a call.