Why Aren't Your Teeth Responding To Whitening Products?

Posted on: 3 September 2015

There are a lot of home whitening products on the market now. And while they're effective for many people, they don't work for everyone. If you've got stains or discoloration on your teeth and haven't seen any improvement after using whitening products, all the positive reviews of these products may have you wondering why they work for other people and not for you.

Most likely, this is because you have internal (or intrinsic) discoloration of your teeth. What does this mean? And what can you do about it?

Where Dental Coloration Comes From

Tooth whitening products work on the surface of the tooth, lightening the color of the enamel. This is usually very effective against discoloration caused by things like drinking coffee, black tea, or red wine, smoking, or chewing tobacco. It can have a small effect on unstained teeth as well ā€“ but if your enamel is in good shape, this may not be a very dramatic change.

Underneath the layer of enamel on your teeth is another layer of material: dentin. Dentin has a huge impact on the color of your teeth; in fact, enamel is translucent, so when your enamel is healthy, you can see the coloring of your dentin showing through. So if the surfaces of your teeth aren't stained, it's mostly your dentin that is determining the shade of your smile.

What Causes Dentin Discoloration

If your dentin is yellow, that's not necessarily unusual. Some people have naturally yellower dentin than others; this is passed down genetically. If your teeth have always looked darker, this is a likely cause.

It's also possible for dentin to become stained. As it's protected by enamel, dentin staining has nothing to do with your diet or what you drink. Instead, it's caused by tooth trauma or certain medications. The number of medications that can cause this is very large, so if you think you have this type of staining, you can discuss your prescription history with your dentist to confirm it.

How To Lighten Your Teeth

Unfortunately, whitening isn't going to do anything for stained or discolored dentin. Bleaching products won't penetrate through the enamel, so the interior of your teeth is unaffected. This means that, rather than actually lightening your dentin, the solution is to cover up your teeth.

There are two ways that this is done: dental bonding and veneers. Both involve roughing the surface of your front teeth and then applying a new outer layer to them. Bonding uses dental resin; it is less expensive, looks less natural and must be touched up more often. Veneers are usually porcelain; this is more expensive but looks indistinguishable from real teeth. 

For more information about these two procedures, contact a professional such as Tore D Steinberg DDS PC.