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How does tooth whitening work?

Simple staining could be helped with whitening tooth pastes and strips. These help to reduce the stains on your tooth's enamel. It's possible to do this by using whitening treatments that applied in trays custom fitted for your teeth. There are even strong whiteners used directly in the dental office.

Josh Berd, DDS
Dentist
Key ingredients in whitening gels are either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. When placed on your teeth, these gels achieve a whitening effect by ‘oxidizing’ away stain molecules.

To learn more about the risks and benefits of teeth whitening read: 
Tooth Whitening—it’s the Most Popular Esthetic Dental Treatment, But Is It Safe? 
http://joshthedentist.blogspot.com/2011/02/tooth-whiteningits-most-popular.html
Tooth whitening products may work in different ways, but all are designed to improve the color of the enamel, or outer layer of the tooth. It is this outermost layer that becomes stained from eating and drinking things that can tint the enamel. Some pores in the enamel can hold stains, which usually cannot be removed by brushing.
The oxygen molecules released from the various forms of hydrogen peroxide used in the whitening gels act like "scrubbing bubbles" penetrating the tooth enamel to lift and remove intrinsic stains in the "pores" of tooth enamel. Stains in and around these enamel rods let less light pass through and thus teeth look darker and duller. The oxidation process from hydrogen peroxide, lifting these stains, allows more light to pass through. The end result is an optical effect of lighter looking teeth.

It is important to remember that after this process your teeth can actually be more prone to stain for a short while because the enamel "pores" take some time, from a natural process of remineralization, to close up. Avoid dark liquids and dark staining foods like red wine, curry dishes, tomato sauce, coffee and tea.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

If your teeth are the approximate hue of hamburger, then surely you've considered the popular cosmetic procedure of whitening. Here's how whitening works: No matter what the delivery method, teeth are whitened by hydrogen peroxide. The oxygen hits the stains and breaks them up, then you wipe them off into oral oblivion. Be careful: It can be irritating to some people. In the dental office, a high-intensity light is used to activate the oxygen, while over-the-counter methods rely more on longer periods of contact time (half an hour for ten days to two weeks) to deliver the oxygen. For the average person, we recommend the tray method. With the exception of using home whitening strips, performing any whitening procedure more than once every two weeks, can cause your tooth enamel to thin.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.