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Teeth Whitening

The Ultimate Guide to How to Whiten Teeth

By Blog, Teeth Whitening No Comments

If we’ve learned anything in our years as Naperville’s general dentists, it’s that everyone wants a perfect pair of sparkling pearly whites. But between the foods we eat and the habits we create, getting shiny white teeth can be easier said than done. Whitening your teeth (and keeping them that way) requires good oral hygiene practices, including brushing, flossing, regular cleanings, and avoiding things that cause damage and discoloration, like smoking and poor diet.

If you’re suffering from teeth stains or yellowing teeth, don’t worry — you’re not alone. There are many ways to whiten your teeth, both at home and at the dentist, and things you can do to keep discoloration at bay. But while at-home practices can be effective, nothing will give you the same dramatic results as professional teeth whitening.

No matter which teeth whitening method you choose, the experts at Naperville Dental Specialists are here to help you restore your teeth to their former brilliancy. Let’s take a look at what causes tooth discoloration and how to put the “white” back in your pearly whites. 

What Causes Yellow Teeth

There are many factors that contribute to yellow teeth — from lifestyle and diet choices to genetic predispositions and aging. Some of these things are in our power to change; for example, we can choose to eat more fruits and veggies and avoid smoking. Other things are just a part of how we’re built.

When it comes to whitening your teeth, it’s important to understand that your teeth have two basic parts: the enamel (or outer layer) and dentin (or inner core). As we age, dentin naturally yellows which unfortunately is just a part of growing older. But there are ways to combat the aging process, and to whiten your enamel, to keep your teeth looking whiter for longer. Here’s how:

  • Eat healthy, nutritious foods: A diet that lacks proper vitamins and nutrients will lead to premature aging of the dentin, meaning your teeth will look yellow quicker. At the same time, your enamel can become discolored by highly pigmented foods and drinks, like red wine, coffee and tobacco. Fortunately, eating a diet rich in healthy, nutrient-packed foods will slow yellowing down and whitening treatments are extremely effective to clear up your enamel.
  • Protect your teeth from trauma: Grinding and trauma from accidents, falls or sporting injuries can all accelerate the aging of the dentin. As we’ve learned, that equals yellow teeth. When you grind your teeth or suffer damage from an accident, the force can cause the dentin to shrink and trigger the aging process, so be sure to take good care of your teeth.
  • Get a whitening treatment: From at-home solutions to in-office professional services, there are so many ways to get whiter teeth. Keep reading to find out more and then ask your dentist which method is best for you.

How to Get Whiter Teeth

Now that you know what’s dulling your teeth’s shine, let’s talk about the best way to get whiter teeth. The most effective solution is professional teeth whitening but it can be more of an investment than some patients are ready to make. For those who prefer to whiten their teeth on their own, there are plenty of DIY teeth whitening practices you can try. Just be aware that while at-home methods and regular cleanings at your dentist will help get rid of surface stains, they won’t be able to clear away deep, set-in discoloration. In most cases, professional teeth whitening is the best solution.

  • Teeth whitening strips: It seems that every major toothpaste brand has some sort of teeth whitening product that promises to give you the shiny, white teeth of your dreams. This type of method is super popular for good reason: it’s super affordable and you can do it in the comfort of your own home.

The truth is whitening strips are actually effective — but that doesn’t make them safe. These strips typically contain hydrogen peroxide, which definitely makes your teeth whiter by breaking down the molecules that cause discoloration in both your enamel and dentin. But hydrogen peroxide is considered toxic or harmful when used in the mouth, so the side effects may not be worth the pearly whites after all.

  • Activated charcoal: This one is for the DIY-ers out there. Activated charcoal has long been used to promote detoxification and treat poisoning, dating back nearly 200 years. The healing properties of activated charcoal have stood the test of time and are now used in all types of beauty and health products, including teeth whitening methods. Unlike hydrogen peroxide, activated charcoal cannot reach the dentin and can only whiten surface stains caused by environmental factors, food and drinks — but it is a 100% safe, natural way to whiten your teeth.
    To try it out, make a paste with activated charcoal, then smear it on your teeth and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Then rinse and brush away anything remaining. Since charcoal is quite abrasive, it’s best to only use this homemade toothpaste a few times a week.
  • Professional teeth whitening: Like we’ve mentioned, this is the only guaranteed way to get whiter teeth that last. Professional teeth whitening can safely get rid of stains and yellowing on both your enamel and dentin, giving you the whitest smile possible.

At Naperville Dental Specialists, we offer Zoom Tooth Whitening. Using a specially designed, light-activated gel, this method breaks down stains. In less than an hour, you’ll have the brightest, whitest teeth you’ve had in years. All you have to do is follow our aftercare instructions and practice good oral hygiene. With our professional teeth whitening service, we’re confident we can put the sparkle back in your smile.



My tooth turned gray after I used teeth whitener

By Teeth Whitening

I recently applied a bleach-based tooth whitener to my teeth for the first time.  The next day, one tooth turned gray and my cheek inside my mouth has a small bump on it. Neither the tooth nor the bump hurt. I just think it’s strange. I don’t want to believe that it’s related to the tooth whitener, but I didn’t have any problems before that. What could have caused my tooth to turn gray? Is there anything I can do to reverse what the teeth whitener did and get my tooth back to its original color? – Brie

Brie – It is strange that your tooth would turn gray after using teeth whitener. Make an appointment with your dentist to examine your tooth, and bring the whitening agent with you to the appointment. Your dentist can examine it, the contents, and if necessary have it tested to determine what’s really in it.

Why Did Your Tooth Turn Gray After Whitening It?

There are several things to consider:

  • It may be that your tooth was damaged before you applied the whitening gel to it, and it became irritated afterward.
  • The problem might stem from the whitening gel. Depending on its source, the gel could be old, contain harmful ingredients, or not be bleaching gel at all.
  • Only a dentist can make the determination after examining your tooth and the bleaching gel.

Although many people prefer to whiten their teeth on their own, there are still many advantages to getting your teeth whitened by a dentist. In advance of providing you with the whitening gel, your dentist will examine your teeth, determine if whitening gel will work for you, anticipate any problems that will occur, and monitor your progress. The results will be predictable and exactly what you hoped to achieve.

The bump on the inside of your mouth will need to be examined to determine why your oral tissue is irritated. Whenever you have oral health issues, it’s best to receive an examination from a dentist and not to determine the cause and treatment. Prompt treatment can save you time and money, and prevent further damage to your tooth.

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.

Internal Tooth Bleaching

By Teeth Whitening

When there is traumatic injury to a tooth, the pulp in the tooth can be damaged, and internal stains result.

A porcelain veneer may be used to conceal the darkened tooth and blend it with your natural teeth. But if the tooth is not causing discomfort or pain, it may be possible to bleach it internally. A barrier is placed in the tooth to prevent the bleaching gel from leaking out or creating sensitivity.

At times, internal bleaching is done before receiving a porcelain crown or porcelain veneer. The bleaching prevents the discoloration in the natural tooth from showing through in the restoration.

Have your tooth examined by an experienced prosthodontist to determine the best option for reviving the color in your tooth.

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.

Will a pediatric dentist whiten my daughter’s teeth?

By Pediatric Dentist, Sensitive Teeth, Teeth Whitening

My daughter is 8 yrs old. She is a model and has been in some local commercials. We both think that she would have more opportunities if she gets her teeth whitened. Will a pediatric dentist whiten her teeth or do I have to do it myself? Thanks Laney

Laney – There is limited research on teeth whitening for children. Many dentists recommended that whitening is delayed until permanent teeth are fully developed. When children are in their mid-teens, whitening by a dentist is safe.

While children are young, the pulp inside the tooth is still developing. Teeth bleaching can create sensitivity in adult teeth, and can be more intense in children. In unique situations, some dentists whiten children’s teeth, but you should not attempt it without a dentist’s supervision. Excessive whitening can weaken tooth structure and eventually darken teeth.

If you are interested in getting your daughter’s teeth whiter, speak with your pediatric dentist for recommendations.

This post is sponsored by Naperville Dental Specialists.

Is it safe for me swish my mouth with peroxide to whiten my teeth?

By Teeth Whitening

Is it safe for me swish my mouth with peroxide to whiten my teeth? – Thanks. Lindsey

Lindsey – Most household hydrogen peroxide is 3%—less than 1/3 the strength of whitestrips that are labeled as professional strength. Swishing it around in your mouth may help reduce some surface stains over time, but the swishing period is not long enough to remove stains embedded in your teeth. And the peroxide is not strong enough to break down stubborn stains in teeth. Without supervision from a dentist, higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide can cause gum and tissue damage.

Even the hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide in professional-strength teeth bleaching gel needs to stay in contact with your teeth to break down embedded stains in them. Custom bleaching trays help the gel to penetrate your teeth, and they confine the gel to prevent it from burning your mouth and gums.

If you want to safely and effectively to brighten your smile, speak with your dentist about how teeth whitening can be made affordable for you.

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.

Can I get my teeth really white if I brush with baking soda 6x a day?

By Teeth Whitening

What if I brushed my teeth say 6 times a day with baking soda? Would they get really white? I want them super white and if I can find a cheap natural way to do it, I will invest the time of brushing my teeth many times a day. – Meghan

Meghan – If you brush your teeth with baking soda, it can help remove surface stains from your teeth. Many brands of toothpaste now contain baking soda. But if there are stains embedded in your teeth, baking soda won’t break them down—neither will whitening toothpastes.

If you decide to use baking soda for brushing your teeth, keep in mind that if you brush too often or to aggressively, you can wear down the enamel on your teeth, and they will look dull. Also, fluoridated toothpaste helps to break down bacterial and fight cavities. Baking soda does not contain fluoride nor any other cavity-fighting agent.

For a safer, more effective way of whitening your teeth, ask your dentist about what options he or she offers for teeth whitening, and how it can be made affordable for you.

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.

Can you get Zoom teeth whitening if your 16?

By Teeth Whitening

Can you get Zoom teeth whitening if your 16? – Melodee

Melodee – The manufacture of Zoom!® recommends that patients under the age of 13 consult a medical doctor before receiving whitening with Zoom. Individual dentists may have an age requirement for treating with Zoom.

If you are 16 years old, you may be a candidate for Zoom, but first, your teeth need to be examined by your dentist to determine if Zoom is right for you.

It may be that take-home teeth whitening will work best for your case. Speak with your dentist about your desire to have your teeth whitened. He or she will make a recommendation based on your individual circumstances.

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.

Teeth Whitening Systems

By Teeth Whitening

A few years ago my dentist gave me a whitening tray called Opalescence. I’m wanting to bleach my teeth. Do I have to only use the opalescence brand with this tray? Could I also use other brands, or could I just use Crest whitestrips without the tray? What about Brite Smile To Go?


Todd M.- Florida


Opalescence is a good whitening gel, but it is not the only one you can use with your tray. It is one of several brands that cosmetic dentists use to whiten their patient’s teeth. Another popular brand is Nite White. The benefit of the tray is it should have been custom made for your teeth, so you’ll get better coverage.

Brite Smile to Go is an over the counter paint on whitener. I have not seen any studies on its effectiveness, so could not give a definitive answer. However, looking at the ingredients and the instructions, it appears to be a mild whitener that is safe to use. Crest White Strips have been around for years and have a number of studies on them. They are perfectly safe and will whiten your teeth, but it is a much milder form of whitener and will take a while.

If you’re looking for a faster teeth whitening system, you might consider Zoom Whitening. It is administered by a dentist and can give you a brilliantly white smile in just one appointment.

This blog is brought to you by Naperville Cosmetic Dentist, Anthony LaVacca.

Can I use peroxide to whiten my teeth?

By Teeth Whitening

Is it possible to use 3% hydrogen peroxide that you can buy over the counter to whiten teeth?

Wendy from Edmund, OK


It is possible to rinse with peroxide, but it won’t make that much of a difference. You can still use an at-home treatment, but you should use one that is supervised by a dentist. Trays and a whitening agent will give you nice results just as long as you allow the solution to penetrate your teeth for a minimum of fifteen minutes. And for quicker results, the trays and whitening agent can safely be worn for a couple hours per day or overnight.  Keep in mind that tooth stains are typically deep, so you want to be sure to whiten the dentin, which is beneath the tooth enamel.

Another alternative is to wear the Crest Whitestrips thirty minutes per day for two weeks. They have roughly a 6% peroxide concentration. This method will provide mild whitening, and it outperforms rinsing with 3% peroxide. This should give you a good perspective of how long it would take to whiten your teeth when just rinsing with peroxide.

Learn about options to whiten discolored teeth, such as Zoom whitening and cosmetic dentistry procedures.

I’d like to know how much dental work can be done in one visit.

By Sedation Dentistry, Teeth Whitening

I’m in need of extensive dental work including a tooth that needs shortening and whitening, 7 root canals, and 3 cavities. I’m trying to avoid making several appointments with my dentist. Can you tell me how much work can be done in one visit?

Jake from Carson City


Each dentist is different regarding how much work they’re willing to do in one sitting. You’ll need to ask your dentist what he or she is willing to do for you.

Dentists that provide sedation dentistry are often the ones willing to do more work in one sitting. Check with your dentist to see if sedation is available, and if not, then you’ll need to find another general dentist or cosmetic dentist that offers it.

If you want to remain with your current dentist, then the amount of work depends on how long you can withstand the visit. It is possible to sit  through a four-hour appointment if you feel at ease with dentistry. A lot can be done in this amount of time if your dentist is capable of working fast.

Providing there are no complications with your front tooth, your dentist should be able to do the tooth whitening and shortening.

Your dentist should be able to complete your seven root canal treatments in one sitting as long as they are on your front teeth. If you require root canal treatments on your molars, and you prefer minimal appointments, then you could go to an endodontist. Endodontists are root canal specialists with the ability to perform a molar root canal in one hour, while a general dentist can take up to two hours per molar.

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