Stained or discolored teeth can be a cause for concern for most people. Whitening your teeth professionally or with the help of over-the-counter products has now become one of the most popular ways to brighten up your smile. While teeth whitening is generally considered a safe procedure for most people, there may be some risks or side-effects associated with it, especially if it is done without professional supervision.
There are a variety of methods available today to whiten your teeth. The fastest and most reliable results are obtained from a professional teeth whitening procedure that is done in a dental office. Over-the-counter products are a cheaper way to whiten your teeth; however, the results obtained from these methods are not the same as that achieved by an in-office teeth whitening procedure.
How is Teeth Whitening Done?
The active ingredient in teeth whitening products is a bleaching agent like hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. The concentration of the bleaching agent is much higher in the products used by a dentist during an in-office whitening procedure. On the other hand, whitening products that are designed to be used at home have a much lower concentration of bleaching agent in them.
A professional teeth whitening treatment lasts anywhere from 30-45 minutes, and depending on the kind of results one expects, may be done in 2-4 appointments. After a thorough cleaning of your teeth, the dentist applies the bleaching gel onto the surfaces of your teeth. The gel may be activated with lasers or a UV light for faster results. The procedure is repeated in subsequent appointments if required.
Alternatively, your dentist might give you bleaching trays to be used at home if you require only mild lightening of your tooth shade or to augment the results obtained from your in-office whitening treatment. The bleaching trays are fabricated custom-made for you so they fit snugly around your teeth. Your dentist will also give you a bleaching gel that needs to be filled into the trays and worn for a few minutes at home for a required period of time.
Over-the-counter products meant for teeth whitening include items like whitening strips, whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes, and whitening gels and pens that can be used at home by yourself. It can take more than a few weeks to obtain noticeable results from at-home teeth whitening measures.
Who Can Benefit from a Teeth Whitening Procedure?
The best results of teeth whitening are seen on people who suffer from surface stains or a mild yellowing of the teeth. Excessive consumption of foods like tea, coffee, wine etc. can lead to staining of the teeth over time, which is known as extrinsic staining. These type of stains can be removed through a few sittings of dental bleaching as they do not penetrate beyond the surface layer of the enamel. The number of appointments required depends on the degree of staining and the type of results desired by the patient.
Grey and brown staining of the teeth is more difficult to remove and does not benefit much from a teeth whitening procedure. Stains left behind from medication like tetracycline or excessive exposure to fluorine that can cause fluorosis of the teeth are some of the hardest stains to treat. These are known as intrinsic stains and penetrate beyond the enamel to cause staining of the dentin layer.
Such people can benefit from a dental bleaching procedure that works from the inside of the tooth rather than the outside. The dentist performs a root canal procedure on the tooth and places the bleaching agent inside the cavity of the tooth. The bleaching agent is left in for a couple of weeks after being sealed adequately to prevent it from leaching out. As the tooth shade improves over time, the bleaching agent is removed once the desired result is obtained.
Another type of staining seen commonly is age-related tooth staining. Like the rest of the tissues in the body, teeth are affected by age as well and may become darkly stained over time. This is also a type of intrinsic stain since it’s the dentin that grows darker with age. Age-related stains are difficult to lighten with over-the-counter products and are best treated through professional teeth whitening measures.
Does Teeth Whitening Cause Any Dental Problems?
While teeth whitening is generally considered a safe procedure, doing it without professional supervision or by an inexperienced dentist may lead to some side effects.
- The most common dental problem associated with teeth whitening is that of tooth sensitivity. People who suffer from pre-existing sensitivity may even have their condition aggravated. However, sensitivity arising due to tooth bleaching is transient in nature and does not last very long. Desensitizing toothpastes and gels can prove to be very helpful in dealing with tooth whitening associated sensitivity. A fluoride treatment done before the
- Dental bleach can come in contact with the gums during the whitening procedure and lead to irritation of the gums. Since the concentration of bleach is higher in the whitening agents used in the dental office, the dentist applies a protective agent around the teeth to prevent the bleaching agent from touching the gums. Any minor irritation caused due to contact between the gums and the whitening agent is quite mild and usually heals on its own.
- There are often concerns regarding the effect of bleaching agents on any dental restorations like tooth fillings or dental crowns. However, it has been proven that teeth whitening agents do not affect any type of filling material or any type of dental crown.
How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last?
The results of teeth whitening do not last forever and may need to be repeated every six months or so. Your eating and drinking habits also affect the longevity of your whitening results. Teeth that have been bleached are also susceptible to staining, which is why patients are advised to limit their consumption of stain-causing foods like tea and coffee. Maintaining good oral hygiene is just as important for maintaining the longevity of your teeth whitening results. Rinsing your mouth after drinking or eating foods that may stain your teeth and brushing your teeth at least twice a day is a good way to make your teeth whitening results last longer.
Visit Le Sueur Family Dental to know more about teeth whitening procedures and get in touch with our expert team to schedule an appointment today.