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Can Teeth Be Whitened If Enamel is Damaged?

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A close-up image of a bearded man smiling after teeth whitening.

A bright white smile—it’s one of the first things people notice about each other. However, achieving such an appearance can be difficult if your enamel is damaged or eroded. So what options exist? Can you whiten your teeth if you have damaged enamel?

You can still try teeth whitening even if you have damaged enamel. However, your dentist will need to examine the area to determine whether or not the process will be safe. If not, they’ll recommend an alternative to help achieve your goals without compromising your dental health.

How Teeth Whitening Works

Your teeth are made up of three layers. There’s the innermost layer known as the pulp, the dentin in the middle, and then the enamel on the outside. The inner layers help keep the tooth secure and nourished, while the enamel acts like more of a shield.

Usually, people think that the enamel is naturally a bright white colour, but this isn’t quite the case. Teeth are usually an off-white, yellow, or grey shade that can vary depending on plenty of different factors.

With teeth whitening, the aim is to remove stains from the tooth’s surface, resulting in a brighter appearance. To do so, a peroxide-based bleaching agent is used. This penetrates the enamel, breaks down the stains, and results in that recognizable shining bright appearance.

That said, it’s crucial to note that teeth whitening focuses on the enamel layer. If the enamel is damaged, the process may become a little more complicated.

The Types of Teeth Whitening

When it comes to teeth whitening, there are typically 3 different approaches:

  1. Whitening oral care products, like toothpaste and mouthwash, that can be purchased at the store. These contain mild abrasives and small amounts of peroxide to gradually reduce visible stains.
  2. At-home whitening kits, usually using gels or strips. These typically involve the use of a light peroxide-based product designed to be worn for a few minutes at a time to remove stains.
  3. In-office whitening, where a special gel is applied to the teeth and then activated with a laser to accelerate the process.

In-office whitening treatment is the most effective of these options. The peroxide concentration is usually stronger, as dentists are much more experienced and can use the product safely. Throughout the process, you’ll be closely monitored, and your comfort and safety is a paramount priority.

Does Teeth Whitening Work on Damaged Enamel?

If your enamel is damaged, there’s good news: you can likely still try in-office whitening with your dentist. It’s entirely possible to whiten damaged enamel, but proper care is crucial.

Before any whitening treatment, you’ll need to talk with our team. We’ll evaluate the condition of your enamel and recommend the safest and most effective type of treatment for your situation.

If you have damaged enamel, avoid any over-the-counter whitening kits. These items, while sometimes effective, may not be suitable for your unique needs. They may inflame the area or compromise the enamel further. If you’re not sure whether or not a kit is safe to use, don’t risk it; instead, reach out to your dentist to discuss potential solutions.

How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last?

After your teeth whitening, it’s natural to wonder how long to expect results to last. It depends on the specific type of treatment used. Generally, you can expect the following:

  • Whitening oral care products: These can help maintain results from professional treatments but generally do not whiten teeth significantly on their own.
  • At-home whitening kits: Results can last up to a year but usually require touch-ups every few months.
  • In-office whitening: Typically lasts between 6 months to 3 years, depending on maintenance and lifestyle.

You can often extend this timeline with proper oral care and hygiene.

Keeping Your Teeth Whitening Results

To maintain those bright, white results after a teeth whitening session, it’s essential to practice good oral hygiene and make mindful lifestyle choices. Here are a few tips to help keep your smile shining:

  • Brush and floss regularly: Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily to remove any plaque or food particles that could lead to staining.
  • Use a fluoride-based whitening toothpaste: Whitening toothpaste can help maintain the results of your professional whitening treatment by reducing surface stains, while fluoride promotes healthy and strong enamel.
  • Avoid stain-causing foods and beverages: Try to limit the consumption of coffee, tea, red wine, and foods with high pigmentation, such as berries and curry. If you do indulge yourself, try to brush your teeth or rinse your mouth with water shortly afterward.
  • Quit smoking: Tobacco products are notorious for causing stained teeth. Quitting smoking will not only contribute to your oral health but also ensure your teeth remain white.

And one of the easiest ways to preserve your teeth whitening results is through regular dental checkups. This way, your dentist can monitor your dental health and give you up-to-date advice on maintaining your smile!

A close-up image of a woman's face split to show the before and after results of teeth whitening.

Try Teeth Whitening for Yourself

Teeth whitening can be an excellent way to give yourself a bright new smile. However, it’s something that should always be approached with care. Your teeth are precious, so don’t put yourself at risk! At Dentistry at Danforth, we’re here to help you in your journey to a brighter smile. Book an appointment with us today!

Written by Dr. Kostas Papadopoulos

Dr. Kostas Papadopoulos received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Toronto in 1992 after completing 3 years of biochemistry and the 4-year program in dentistry. He enjoys continuing education and has attended numerous rehabilitative and cosmetic dentistry programs, including courses taught by Dr. John Kois.

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