Teeth whitening the science

Teeth whitening is based on dental science and how teeth are structured. Let’s explore the basics of how teeth whitening actually works:

Teeth have an outer layer called enamel and an inner layer known as dentin. The color of our teeth comes from both enamel and dentin, with enamel being the main factor.

Over time, our teeth can get stained from things like colored foods, drinks, smoking, and age. Stains can be on the surface or deeper within the tooth.

Teeth whitening products contain active ingredients, usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These ingredients break down into tiny oxygen molecules. These molecules go inside enamel and dentin to break up the molecules that cause staining.

The oxygen molecules mix with the stain molecules, making the stains smaller and less noticeable. This is what makes teeth look whiter.

Teeth have tiny pores. As stains are broken down, these pores get less filled with stain molecules. This helps make teeth look whiter.

Teeth whitening isn’t a permanent fix. Stains can come back from things we do in our daily life. So, you might need more treatments to keep your teeth white.

Using teeth whitening products or treatments safely is important. They’re made to minimize side effects like sensitive teeth or gum irritation.

Professional teeth whitening done by dentists or technicians usually gives better results than at-home products. They have stronger ingredients and can customize treatments for you.

In short, teeth whitening involves a controlled chemical process that breaks down stains and brings back the natural whiteness of teeth. Knowing how it works helps you make smart choices about your teeth and how you whiten them.



In-chair teeth whitening, also known as professional teeth whitening or chairside whitening, is a cosmetic dental procedure aimed at significantly brightening the color of your teeth. This process involves a combination of science and technology to effectively remove stains and discoloration, resulting in a whiter and more attractive smile.

The main science behind in-chair teeth whitening lies in the use of a hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide-based gel. These compounds break down into oxygen molecules, which penetrate the enamel (outer layer) of the teeth. This penetration occurs due to the gel’s ability to pass through the microscopic pores present in the enamel.

Once the oxygen molecules reach the stained molecules within the tooth’s structure, they work to break down the chemical bonds of these stains. As a result, the staining compounds are reduced in size and visibility, making the teeth appear lighter and brighter.

The in-chair teeth whitening procedure typically involves the following steps:

  • Preparation: Your dentist will start by evaluating your oral health and determining if you’re a suitable candidate for the procedure. They will also clean your teeth to ensure the best possible results.
  • Gel Application: A professional-grade whitening gel containing 6% hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide is applied to your teeth. The concentration of the gel used in a dental office is higher than what’s found in over-the-counter products.
  • Activation: Some in-chair whitening procedures use a special light or teeth whitening machine to activate the whitening gel. This light source accelerates the breakdown of the peroxide compounds, enhancing the whitening process.
  • Multiple Sessions: Depending on the level of discoloration and the desired results, the procedure may involve multiple gel applications and activation sessions. Each session typically lasts around 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Rinsing and Evaluation: Once the desired level of whitening is achieved, the teeth bleaching gel is removed, and your dentist will evaluate the results. You may see an immediate improvement, though the final results may become more evident in the following days as any residual dehydration of the teeth fades.
  • Post-Treatment Care: Your dentist will provide you with post-treatment instructions to ensure the best and longest-lasting results. This may include avoiding certain foods and beverages that can stain your teeth, as well as maintaining good oral hygiene practices.


Key points:

  • Tooth Structure: Teeth have an outer layer called enamel and an inner layer called dentin. The color of teeth is influenced by both the enamel and dentin, with enamel being the primary determinant of tooth color.
  • Staining: Over time, our teeth can become stained due to various factors such as consumption of colored foods and beverages, smoking, and aging. Stains can be extrinsic (on the surface) or intrinsic (within the tooth structure).
  • Active Ingredients: Teeth whitening products contain active ingredients, usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These ingredients break down into oxygen molecules, which then enter the enamel and dentin to target and break apart the molecules that cause staining.
  • Oxygenation: The oxygen molecules released during the breakdown of the active ingredients react with the stain molecules. This reaction causes the stains to become smaller and less concentrated, resulting in a whitening effect.
  • Pores and Whiteness: Enamel contains microscopic pores. As stains are broken down, the pores become less filled with stain molecules, leading to a whiter appearance.
  • Temporary vs. Permanent: Teeth whitening is effective at removing extrinsic stains and can lighten the shade of teeth. However, it’s important to note that teeth whitening is not permanent. Over time, teeth can become stained again due to lifestyle factors. Maintenance treatments may be needed to keep the desired level of whiteness.
  • Safety Measures: While teeth whitening is generally safe, it’s crucial to follow the instructions provided by the product or dental professional. The concentration of the whitening agent and the duration of exposure are carefully controlled to minimize any potential side effects, such as tooth sensitivity or gum irritation.
  • Professional vs. DIY: Professional teeth whitening treatments, usually performed by dentists or trained technicians, offer stronger whitening agents and better results compared to over-the-counter products. Professional treatments also take into account individual factors such as tooth sensitivity and gum health.

In essence, teeth whitening involves a controlled chemical reaction that breaks down stains and restores the natural whiteness of teeth. Understanding the science behind teeth whitening helps individuals make informed choices about the methods they use and the results they can expect.


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