What to Do When Your Teeth Don’t Whiten

Mar 18, 2015, by Dr. Becky Coats

For most people, teeth whitening is a very effective procedure. You can see your teeth become significantly whiter, regaining the color they had when you were much younger. But it doesn’t always work. For some people, teeth whitening either doesn’t work or it works for a while, then stops working.

Over-the-Counter Whitening Might Not Work Anyway

When Teeth Whitening Doesn't WorkFirst, we should say that we’re talking about teeth whitening procedures performed or overseen by a dentist. Over-the-counter whitening kits have many reasons why they might not work, such as:

  • Weak whitening compounds
  • Poorly fitting trays and strips
  • Inadequate directions

So before you think whitening isn’t working, make sure you talk to a dentist to learn what other reasons might be responsible.

Stains Teeth Whitening Works on

Teeth whitening uses a chemical to neutralize and remove stain molecules. This makes it very effective on some kinds of stains, such as:

  • Food stains such as chocolate or berries
  • Beverage stains like coffee, tea, or red wine
  • Stains from smoking

These stains are in the surface layers of the tooth enamel, where the whitening chemicals can penetrate in and break them down. But other stains are not so accessible to whitening.

Discoloration That Whitening Can’t Improve

But there are many causes of discolored teeth that whitening can’t work on. These causes of discoloration aren’t caused by simple stain molecules that can be easily broken down, and include:

  • Imperfections in the tooth enamel
  • Discoloration due to thin enamel
  • Tooth decay or infection
  • Discoloration caused by metal amalgam fillings
  • Staining from certain antibiotics
  • Discoloration due to tooth trauma

However, it’s worth noting that staining from the last two causes, antibiotics and tooth trauma can sometimes respond to certain types of whitening (such as the whitening treatment we use, KöR Bleaching).

For people who have teeth that used to respond to whitening, but don’t seem to anymore without a clear cause (such as trauma), it’s likely that the tooth has either suffered erosion of the enamel, allowing the yellowy layers under the enamel to show through or it has developed decay. In both cases, people should talk to their dentist.

Beyond Teeth Whitening

But whether you’ve never benefited from teeth whitening or if it’s stopped working, cosmetic dentistry can still help. Porcelain veneers or dental crowns can be used to cover up teeth that are discolored from the inside. We can also make sure that there’s not an oral health reason why your teeth are not responding to whitening.

If you are looking for truly effective teeth whitening in Grapevine, please call (817) 481-6888 for an appointment with a cosmetic dentist at Grapevine Dental Care today.