How Do Tooth Whitening Treatments Work?

We associate a beautiful smile with good oral health—and pearly, bright whites are one of the first measures we look for. Whatever differences we have in body types, fashions and so forth, the desire for a bright smile is universal, which is why tooth whitening is so popular around the world. And its popularity continues to grow.  


There are innumerable products and methods, from home-based boxes to treatments that need to be performed in a professional setting. You have the luxury of choosing the one that best suits your budget and preference. 


But, did you ever wonder how some of these whitening treatments work? Read on to find out! 

The science behind tooth whitening
What parts of the tooth are affected during tooth whitening procedures? 


Most tooth whitening procedures use materials that contain hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide as active ingredients. The mechanism of each is basically the same—more commonly, we call it bleaching. 
The part of the tooth you see and feel is your enamel, which represents only the outermost layer of your teeth above your gums. It’s the hardest substance in your body, but isn’t without weaknesses or the possibility of corrosion. Enamel appears white, yet in reality is translucent.  


The layers of tooth right below enamel is comprised of dentin, and its natural color is a soft yellow. As you age, dentin tends to become darker, and your enamel begins to appear blurry. No matter how diligent you are in your tooth brushing and oral hygiene, your teeth will naturally change color over time.  


That said, stellar oral hygiene is the best way to combat this natural effect. But if push comes to shove, there are these whitening options to consider.  


Here’s where teeth whitening steps in: 


About 20 years ago, it was discovered that applying products with 10% active ingredient carbamide peroxide permeates through the enamel and decomposes the discoloration of the dentin beneath, while also clearing the enamel back to its earlier translucent shine. When carbamide peroxide is kept in contact with the tooth long enough, voila! You can whiten it from beneath the enamel itself. The longer the contact, the whiter the tooth becomes, sometimes until there is nothing left to bleach.  


Note that redundant bleaching can carry negative side-effects, like initiating the very decomposition of enamel, so start with a consultation with your dentist to establish what whitening regimen makes sense for you. 


Due to high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide in these “bleaching” products, your gums are protected during treatments with cofferdam, or a gel called opaldam. Whitening gel is then applied to your teeth and can be activated by light, heat or chemicals. 
Limitations of tooth whitening 
Be sure to note that no tooth whitening treatment is everlasting, and in some cases teeth can only be whitened so many shades. For a full consultation of the product that’s right for you, and its possible longevity, talk to your dentist.  


Another interesting tooth whitening fact is that black or brown discolorations from cavities cannot be removed—these need to be drilled and filled. And, for that matter, bleaching doesn’t work on fillings, so the degree to which you whiten might also have to do with how white the fillings are that you’re working around! Of course, you can always take out old fillings and replace them with whiter ones, too. 


The options are many, which makes it all the more important to start with a consultation with your dentist. 

How Do Baby Teeth Grow?

Baby teeth—also known as milk, deciduous, or primary teeth—start sprouting between months four and seven after your baby is born, and they keep on erupting until about age three. For as few teeth as there are in your child’s mouth (as compared with an adult jaw), these little teeth seemingly just keep coming in. 


There are outlying cases where a first tooth might come in as early as month three, or as late as month 18. Early and late development are nothing to be worried about, just ask your dentist if you’re unsure about your child’s specific case. By the time children reach age three, the great majority of them have all 20 of their baby teeth. 

 Baby teeth and how they grow

Baby teeth pre-birth development  


Baby teeth start to form between weeks six to eight of fetal development, sometimes before a mother even knows she’s expecting. More interestingly yet, baby teeth actually develop over the sites where adult teeth begin to form directly beneath them—also during fetal development. Your baby begins developing those little quick-sprout baby teeth around two months into development—and then, before he or she is even born, the development of their adult teeth begins deep in the jaw around week 20. 


The order baby teeth grow in 


The first teeth you’ll see in your baby’s tiny mouth are the two central lower incisors. A few months later, your baby will probably grow upper incisors, with the standard pace of one tooth per month. Most children have around six teeth by the time they’re one year old. Over the course of the next couple of years, there are about another dozen teeth to go: starting with two remaining lower incisors, and four molars. Interestingly, you might notice that your child’s molars do not grow adjacent to the incisors—they save enough space for the later sprouting of canines. 


The second-to-last burst of teeth are your child’s canines. After that (typically once your child is about three and a half years old), four new molars emerge behind the first set, finishing the set of 20 deciduous teeth. Of course, this is how it usually goes. Every baby’s mouth is different, so if you see something out of the ordinary, feel free to ask your dentist about it. 


The tender pains of teething 


During the process of baby teeth eruption, the gums above the sprouting baby teeth become swollen and a painful, which is the classic source of a teething baby’s irritability. Your baby will also have the insatiable desire to chew on toys to help put pressure on painful gums. Baby teeth growth is followed by increased saliva secretion, too, so you might notice a rash around your baby’s mouth and neck as a consequence. This is common, and nothing to worry about. 


The funny thing about baby teeth  


The funny thing about baby teeth is, after all that development and work, they start falling out between ages five and seven. This is one of the magical experiences of childhood that will also start to reveal what the oral health reality might be for your child as he or she reaches adolescence. Are teeth coming in straight? Could braces be in their future? Whatever the case, give your children their best shot at good oral hygiene by modeling good habits of your own! 

Oral Hygiene: The Ultimate Snapshot Guide

We talk about it all the time, and sometimes you find yourself hearing the same lines over and over again. “Brush your teeth; oral hygiene is easy; flossing is really important, too!” But somehow, setting the routine and making the habit for good oral hygiene continues to be hard for most of us.  


Oral hygiene doesn’t have to be complicated, even if the reasons behind our “inability” to make the habit leaves us puzzled. Brushing your teeth twice a day is what you’ve always heard, but it’s not enough—especially with most diets today. 

 The best oral hygiene

Take a look at this snapshot oral hygiene guide for a few reminders about what’s important, and why. 


  1. Treat yourself to a high-quality toothbrush

    Toothbrush bristles come in all shapes and sizes, not to mention “hard,” “medium,” and “soft.” You can choose between classic manual toothbrushes and electric options, too. And once we start talking about gum massagers and tongue scrapers built into the toothbrush, things really start to get fancy.

    The important thing is that you use your toothbrush, no matter the shape it comes in. Invest in the toothbrush you like, even if it’s just the funny rubber gum massagers that you like the feel of when you brush.

  2. Flossing really is the big deal we make it out to be

    Flossing seems tedious, and some folks with sensitive gums even find it disagreeable. But your dentist has said it before, and you’ll hear it countless times again—flossing is one of the biggest components of your oral health. Even the most diligent and detail-oriented tooth brushers will miss some spots, and have food or tartar stuck between teeth that a brush won’t get. Flossing before you brush is doubly beneficial, as it frees up bits of food that you can then more easily brush away.

  3. Use mouthwash

    Mouthwash leaves you with a pleasant sensation (not to mention more pleasant breath), but it does more than that for your oral health. Mouthwash with fluoride helps prevent decay, and other ingredients like cetylpyridinium chloride can help with sensitive gums. Using mouthwash also stimulates saliva production, which helps flush bacteria from your mouth, balance pH, and keep bad breath at bay.

  4. Sodas and tobacco—enemy number one of your oral health

    Smoking and soda consumption are not only bad for your teeth, but for your overall oral health (not to mention other systems in your body). Each of these affects the natural pH in your mouth, corrodes your teeth, and leaves your whole mouth more susceptible to unattractive, uncomfortable, and dangerous side effects.

    Quitting either of these is no small task. But even a snapshot oral health guide wouldn’t be complete without reiterating how detrimental tobacco and sodas are for you.

  5. Regular checkups 


At least once every six months, schedule a routine check-up at your dentist’s office. Getting your teeth professionally cleaned is reason enough to go, but your dentist can also detect issues before they develop into full-scale decay or disease.  


Creating new or improved routines can be tough. But the beauty is that, once established, it’s easy to follow the momentum. Take care of your teeth, and keep these tips top-of-mind. When we see you next, we want you to smile big and feel confident doing it! 

Tooth Color and Genetics

Do you remember a time when your teeth were whiter? Do you look at photos and think about changes to your teeth since you were young? Or, do you find yourself looking at family members or peers whose pearly whites are enviable, and wonder where you went wrong?


Do you feel like you haven’t done enough coffee drinking or smoking in your life to have such a yellow smile?

Can genetics cause yellow teeth?

There’s been hot debate for years whether genetics can leave you pre-disposed to tooth decay. The idea is, if genes dictate absolutely every feature of our natural form, maybe some of us have teeth that become discolored faster. Obviously, something that leaves stains needs to hit your teeth—coffee, cigarette smoke and wine are three famous culprits. But do some people have tooth enamel that’s less resistant to those types of stains?


Are your teeth yellowing thanks to genetics, or other factors?


To start, some people are born with naturally whiter teeth, while others’ are less white. What’s more, each individual tooth in your mouth could sprout as a slightly different shade than its neighbor.


Natural tooth color depends on the structure and density of the tissues that make up your tooth. And though you’re born with a specific composition to your teeth, external factors affect it as well. Most dentists agree that tooth yellowing is usually the consequence of lifestyle, but that’s not to say some people’s teeth don’t get yellower faster.


Any change in the structure of a tooth can alter its color. Meaning, the better your oral hygiene is, the better the chances that you can keep your smile white.


That said, even if all the people in the world avoided smoking and drinking wine and the like, we’d still have differently colored teeth. This proves that there are at least some genetic pre-determinations that come into play.


Which parts of the tooth is responsible for tooth color?
The mineral balances in the very dentin that makes up your tooth can determine tooth color; however, the enamel is what puts the real “shade” on it. Enamel is what gets stained—and as you wear enamel down (for example with acidic foods or carbonated beverages), you risk staining the dentin and suffering irreversible tooth discoloration.


Natural color, plus natural dispositions


Knowing where tooth discoloration occurs, your tooth color is influenced not only by the color teeth come in as, but also by their resistance to external factors. But genetics alone are never to blame for discolored teeth. Lifestyle and trauma to individual teeth continue to be the greatest factors determining tooth color.


If you come from a family with lots of yellow or gray teeth, but not for any lifestyle choice like smoking, you might be genetically pre-disposed to teeth that show stains over time. Take the best care of your teeth that you can, and what yellowing or damage does occur is that much more likely to be reversible.

Tips To Make Your Dentist Visit Less Stressful

Even if you have a great relationship with your dentist, it’s not uncommon to feel nervous about climbing into the dentist chair. We all know how getting dental work done can stir uncomfortable anxieties. And, with some treatments subjecting you to physical discomfort on top of it, anxiety might seem unavoidable.


Feeling anxious about dentist appointments can manifest itself in a very real fear of getting work done on your teeth. Even when your fear-ridden mind tells you to avoid subjecting yourself to voluntary pain, common sense reminds you that we need to go scheduled dentist appointments for the good of our oral and overall health.

Dentist Visits

To reduce any emotional symptoms related to dentist visits, we have a few tricks to share. Keep on reading and your next appointment could be a cakewalk.

  1. Get ample rest before your appointment. Physical exhaustion feeds emotional exhaustion, and can completely change how you reach to situations. When you’re tired, you’re much more sensitive, particularly to anxiety—so, getting sufficient sleep prior to a dentist visit will minimize the likelihood of nightmarish distress. We also recommend setting your dentist appointments early in the morning so that you don’t have a whole day to wait and think about it. Lastly, while you are planning your next appointment, try not to plan anything physically or mentally stressful in the last hour before you arrive. Your body and mind will appreciate this, and thank you with lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
  2. Be sure to eat a good meal. Never go to the dentist on an empty stomach. The lower levels of glucose in your blood make your body more sensitive, and make thinking rationally more difficult. But if you experience stomach upset with anxiety, you’ll have to balance the need to eat with a careful measure of how much you want in your belly while you’re in the chair. The best bet is usually a small-to-medium-sized meal.

    Note: some more drastic dental interventions require you not to eat beforehand. Be sure you understand the instructions before a dental appointment if there’s reason not to eat anything beforehand.

  3. Take someone along with you. Take a friend, partner or family member with you if you’d prefer to have company at the dentist’s office. Not only can your support help keep your rational side in-tact, but conversation before the appointment can serve as a distraction. And, leading up to the day of the appointment, you can think of your appointment as your chance to visit with your support person, rather than an outing purposed for dental work.
  4. Give yourself something to look forward to after the appointment, like a fun purchase or a favorite treat to take home. Remember that most dental treatments, even regular cleaning where fluoride is applied, require you not to eat or drink for a specific amount of time after the appointment. And in the case of local anesthesia, food might even taste different if you don’t wait until it wears off. But making the purchase while you’re out after the appointment can give you a sense of post-dentist celebration.


Whatever the case, and however you decide to cope, fear of going to the dentist isn’t always a bad thing. Some of our patients with the greatest anxiety around visits are also those who take the best care of their teeth! If it means fewer dentist trips, you have every reason to brush and floss after every meal.

Summer Oral Health Tips

Every season has its charm. Summertime has warmth and sunshine, and all the activities that come with it. Perhaps you’ve noticed that, as soon as the sunny weather starts, your diet and eating habits change with it. Outdoor feasts are a summer luxury that means eating richer foods and ice cream treats. And, in the heat, sodas or a cold beer sound especially refreshing. On Sunday, say you and your friends drive to the nearby picnic spot. What do you bring to the picnic? Let us guess: snack foods, heavily dressed sandwiches, candy or fast food, and fruity drinks.


Every time you eat or drink, the pH in your mouth decreases and it becomes more acid-saturated. Once this acidic environment is created, your mouth becomes the perfect place for bacteria to grow. And at the same time, acid attacks your tooth enamel, making it less resistant to stains or decay.

Summer fun, summer foods

10 oral health tips for staying “in pH balance” this summer


  1. Avoid chewing on ice. It might help you cool off, but it’s bad for your teeth. The idea that chewing ice can dilute your stomach acids is a myth, but it can crack a tooth.
  2. Just as you would in spring, autumn and winter, stick to your oral hygiene routine. Brush your teeth at least two times a day, and floss regularly.
  3. Beware of cravings for sweet soda drinks. And, if you really want to keep your mouth healthy, pay special attention to how much alcohol you consume. These sugary drinks encourage bacteria growth, and the acids in them deplete your oral pH.
  4. Replace unhealthy snacks like chips or ice-cream with seasonal fruits and vegetables, especially the green ones. Feel free to eat them raw, or turn them into summer smoothies.
  5. When on a picnic or at a barbeque, don’t open bottles and bags with your teeth—even if one is a favorite party trick. Unless you want a tooth to break, use your hands! It may take a second longer, but it will save you a ton of money and time on tooth repair.
  6. If you’re planning to participate in summer sports like volleyball or Frisbee throwing, consider using a mouth guard. You can ask your dentist to design one just for you, or buy one over-the-counter.
  7. When you plan on spending the whole day out in the sun, buy sugar free chewing gums if you’re unable to get to a bathroom to brush your teeth.
  8. Lip balm almost always has an SPF ingredient, and is a good sunscreen for your lips. Our lips are especially prone to burning, so it’s important to take care of them. Perpetual burns across the lips can lead to skin cancer that can spread into the mouth.
  9. Before going away to your summer vacation destination, visit your dentist for a routine check-up. If you don’t make an appointment in time, come in as soon as you’re back.
  10. This one can’t be emphasized enough: drink plenty of water! Don’t only replace those sugary beverages with it, but stay hydrated so that your body has the resources it needs to fight of the plaque and bacteria that’s bound to build in your mouth.


If there is a silver lining to taking care of your teeth while enjoying summer foods and fun, it’s that you can always wait a little while after a meal before flossing and brushing. In fact, study has shown that brushing about 30 minutes after a meal is even more effective at lowering acidic concentrations.


Make sparkling, healthy teeth part of what you think of in summertime! Enjoy your summer foods, but stay smart about your oral hygiene.

Early Detection of Oral Cancer Saves Lives

April is oral cancer awareness month—this is a good time to take heed and visit your dentist for a screening. Get involved—tell your family and friends—everyone should get screened, regardless of gender or whether you smoke or drink.

Is Oral Cancer Common?

Oral and pharyngeal cancer, cancer of the mouth and upper throat, combined kills nearly one person every hour, every day of the year, 24/7/365—around 9,000 individuals in a year. Of the people diagnosed with these types of cancers, only about 60% will live longer than five years.

Moreover, the people who do survive often suffer long-term obstacles, such as trouble eating and speaking or severe facial disfigurement. The death rate associated with oral cancer remains exceptionally high, not because oral cancer is hard to diagnose, but because the malignancy is being discovered late in its development.

Are You at Risk for Oral Cancer?

Oral and throat cancer most often begin in the flat cells, or squamous cells, that cover the surfaces of the lips, tongue, and mouth. Most of the risk factors for oral cancer originate from actions that can be avoided. Some risk factors include heavy consumption of alcohol, tobacco use, infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), poor nutrition, sun exposure, and history of oral cancer. Interestingly, oral cancers are 2x more common in men than in women.


The fastest expanding population of oral cancer patients is healthy, young, nonsmoking individuals due to the HPV virus. Public awareness is the only hope to save lives because we cannot stop the virus from spreading. Doctors urge parents to visit with their children about the risk of oral sex and the vaccination against HPV.

Schedule Your Dental Screening

Your dentist is not only interested in your teeth, but also the general appearance of your tissues. The American Dental Association developed recommendations to help your dentist check for oral cancers.

Your dentist can look for changes that could indicate disease—checking for signs of cancer is a routine part of your dental checkup. A cancer diagnosis cannot be made based off of a visual assessment—only a biopsy from tissue removed from the area can diagnose it. However, your dentist can recognize suspicious-looking areas or lumps that may need further evaluation.

If anything unusual appears, your dentist will likely reexamine you in one to two weeks; it is possible that the spot in question will heal during that time. Another common practice is your dentist may refer you to another dentist for a second opinion. You and your dentist can discuss what might be causing the abnormality and your options. Together, you will decide the ideal next step for you.

How to Perform a Self-Exam to Detect Oral Cancer

Along with routine visits to your dentist, self-exams are crucial in the early detection of oral cancers:

  • Use a bright light and a mirror
  • Remove any appliances, such as dentures or aligners
  • Look and feel the inside of your mouth, lips, and the front of your gums, also known as gingivae
  • Tilt head back to inspect the roof of your mouth
  • Pull your cheek out to see the surface and the back of the gums
  • Stick out your tongue and check all surfaces
  • Feel for enlarged lymph nodes on both sides of your neck—this includes the glands under the lower jaw

What to look for:

  • White patches—leukoplakia
  • Red patches—erythroplakia
  • Both red and white patches—erythroleukoplakia
  • A non-healing sore that bleeds easily
  • Roughened or crusted area
  • A lump or thickening of tissue
  • Chronic hoarseness or a sore throat
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing—dysphagia
  • Pain when chewing
  • Change in the way your teeth fit together

Screening is our best hope of decreasing the mortality rate from this condition. By participating in oral cancer awareness month, you are not only offering a rewarding service to yourself, but you are helping others see the value of oral cancer screening.

Original Source: Early Detection of Oral Cancer Saves Lives