YOUR HEALTH: Sinking your teeth into the tooth whitening process

In recent years, tooth whitening has become one of the most frequently requested treatments to improve smile esthetics.

Thus, I’m often asked how whitening works, and whether it will damage teeth enamel in any way (it won’t).

Whitening agents work by reacting to neutralize the stains deep inside the surface of your teeth. If you were to view your teeth under a microscope, their surface would actually have a “honeycomb” appearance.

Each perforation (or tube) is plugged with an organic material that keeps your teeth from being sensitive.

Whitening agents remove these plugs and work their magic on the inner layer.

Before long, the plugs re-form, which is why there are often periods of transient sensitivity after whitening.

Some things to consider before whitening:

l Always see your dentist first to discuss your options, expectations and potential risks or complications.

l Porcelain and composite dental work will not whiten. If you have white fillings or crowns at the front, whitening could leave you with a multi-coloured smile.

l Sensitivity, though temporary, can be quite intense. Your dentist will show you what you can do beforehand to reduce this.

l Make sure your whitening trays fit soundly and that you use the right amount of gel for the right amount of time. More (or longer) isn’t better and could lead to problems.

l After the initial whitening regimen, a couple of whitening sessions a month, or even just a few a year, should be adequate to maintain your new shade.

l Pregnant or nursing mothers should postpone whitening

For almost everyone, tooth whitening is a very safe and effective procedure. If you’re planning to use “over the counter” drug store brands, your dentist can help you choose the right product to make you smile.


Dr. Cory Seebach, DMD, is owner of Beyond Beautiful Smiles in Campbell River. To learn more, call 250-923-4746 or visit

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