How Bright Should You Whiten Your Teeth?

How White Should You Whiten Your Teeth

Did you know that your teeth are not naturally white? Yet, teeth whitening procedures are the most commonly performed cosmetic dental procedures. When considering having their teeth whitened, many people believe that their teeth should be white after the treatment. Rather, teeth whitening lightens the color of your teeth in order to make them appear whiter. So, how white should you make your teeth? 

enamel and dentin layers of teeth

Let’s first consider the basic structure of your teeth. Your teeth are composed of three layers and these layers affect the color of your teeth. Enamel is the outer layer. Since enamel is translucent, the middle layer of the tooth shows through. This is known as the dentin layer and it is yellowish in color. The dentin layer starts off as a light yellow and gets increasingly darker with age. 

Dentin’s color is one main factor that affects the color of your teeth. Primary teeth have a thin layer of dentin that is light yellow in color, which is why young children appear to have white teeth. Unfortunately, permanent teeth have a thicker dentin layer with a deeper yellow tint. Permanent teeth can also vary in their natural color depending on genetics. 

To determine the natural color of your teeth, your dentist will have you use a shade guide. Shade guides have four different rows of colors your teeth can be with varying shades ranging from light to dark. These four different colors are referred to as A-D and include: 

  • Reddish Brown (A)
  • Reddish Yellow (B)
  • Gray (C)  
  • Reddish Gray (D)
teeth whitening natural tooth color shade guide

The majority of people have teeth that are A3, meaning that they are slightly reddish brown in color. This is considered by many dentists to be the natural color of teeth. When it comes to whitening treatments, however, many people want to whiten their teeth to the level of B1, which is extremely bright in comparison to A3. Instead of trying to make your teeth perfectly white, most cosmetic dentists recommend selecting a lighter shade of your natural color. Even brightening your smile by 2-3 shades can make a significant difference, while still maintaining a natural appearance. 

Additionally, when deciding how bright to whiten your teeth here is some advice from top cosmetic dentists: 

  • Remember Restorations: any dental restorations that you have, such as crowns, fillings, inlays, onlays, etc., do not respond to whitening treatment and will remain the same existing color. Therefore, if you have multiple visible restorations, you will want to choose a color that is both lighter and able to blend with the coloring of your restoration. Alternatively, you can also choose to have your restoration replaced, but this is a more expensive option. 
  • Don’t Be Too Dramatic: before having your teeth whitened, you will need to consider how dramatic you want the change to be. Some types of whitening treatments can produce dramatic results that lighten your smile up to 9 shades. While this may sound amazing in theory, having teeth so white they glow is not always considered to be a good look. When planning your whitening treatment, remember that you can always come back to increase the brightness, but you cannot undo teeth that have been over whitened. 
  • Stains: some darker stains, for example those that are grey or black in color, are likely to remain on the surface of your teeth even after whitening. Although they may fade, they can still be able be seen.