Tooth whitening

Teeth whitening

23 Dec , 2014  

What is teeth whitening?

Tooth whitening, also referred to as teeth bleaching, is one of today’s most popular cosmetic dental procedures.

Tooth whitening safely lightens the colour of most teeth. Teeth darkened from aging, food stains, and smoking can be easily lightened. However staining from fluorosis and tetracycline is more difficult to whiten.

There are many different ways of whitening your teeth. There are take-home kits and in-office bleaching systems performed in an hour. The most effective and safest method of tooth whitening is supervision by a dentist.

What causes tooth discolouration?

No one can avoid tooth discolouration as tooth staining molecules are found in our foods and drinks. Some staining products include soft drinks, juices, coffee, tea, red wines, berries, tomato sauce, soy sauce and smoking. Teeth also discolour naturally with age. Long-term use of Savacol mouthwash has also been found to stain teeth.

How white will my teeth get?

It varies person to person how white teeth will bleach. A teeth whitening treatment will not make your teeth “American white” (toilet bowl white). Dental veneers can only produce this artificial whiteness. The degree of whiteness from bleaching gel depends on a number of factors, including how stained your teeth were before the whitening, what kind of staining agents caused most of the colouration, how well your enamel reacts to gel, the kind and strength of gel used and the number of treatments performed. However, your teeth can only be whitened to their natural colour, which varies significantly from person to person.

Can all teeth be whitened?

Only natural teeth can we whitened. Crowns, veneers, etc can sometimes benefit slightly from a teeth whitening treatment, sometimes improving back to their original colour. People whose stains amounted from the antibiotic tetracycline or from fluorosis will see little improvement.

Is it safe and are there any side effects?

Many well conducted studies have shown whitening to be safe and effective. Some short-term complications are slight gum irritation or tooth sensitivity, which will resolve when the treatment ends. Tooth whitening provided by dental professionals will have less side effects than over the counter products or whitening provided by non-dental professionals. High concentrated whitening gel when in contact to the skin, lips or gums can cause an inflammatory reaction producing swelling, pain and discomfort.

How does it work?

Carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide in varying concentrations is the active ingredient in most whiteing gels.  When water contacts the active ingredient, the release of hydrogen peroxide penetrates the tooth’s enamel revealing the hidden staining molecules.  Oxygen molecules released by the whitening agents binds to the staining molecules expelling them from the tooth’s surface. Successful whitening depends also on emulsions and propagators present in quality bleaching agents.

What is the whitening process for a take home dental whitening treatment?

Step 1:  

To start, there is an in-office visit where the dentist will complete an oral examination and take x-rays. This is needed as applying whitening gel to cavities can be very painful. The dentist will also identify any fillings or crowns which will not whiten and therefore require replacing at the completion of the whitening process. A dental hygiene clean is recommended to remove plaque or calculus which may shield the tooth surface from the whitening gel (ensure you don’t commence whitening until a few days post a clean to avoid very sensitive teeth). Once the dentist is happy to proceed with the whitening process,  an impression of your upper and lower teeth and gum line will be taken. Stone models will be poured from your impressions and clear trays manufactured.

Step 2:  

You return for your tray try in and tooth whitening instructions.

Step 3:  

For the next two weeks you wear at night or during the day your moulded and custom built teeth bleaching trays using the provided whitening gel. Depending on the whitening product your dentist offers will determine the exact instructions of whitening gel application. This is very comfortable and unobtrusive.

Step 4:

In office consult with your dentist to determine shade and whether further whitening is required.

Step 5:

From that point on, your teeth whiteness is easily and effectively maintained through using your Home Maintenance Kit.  This involves you simply using your whitening gel  at night or during the day approximately once every 1 – 3 months  depending on how often you eat or drink staining products.

Are the whitening systems purchased over-the-counter effective?

Whitening systems sold over the counter may not be strong enough to provide desired results. Stronger whitening products are dispensed by a dentist to make the whitening process as safe as possible. Beware of whitening toothpastes that are abrasive as this can wear your enamel away.

To find a dentist who offers teeth whitening visit

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