Teeth Whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures. Nearly every second patient ask – how to get my teeth whiter? Let’s talk about the teeth whitening procedure and why teeth get discoloured.
Why teeth get discoloured?
There are many reasons why the natural tooth colour becomes stained over time, tobacco, drinking tea, coffee or red wine, eating highly pigmented foods (such as cherries and blackberries) and the build-up of tartar deposits are among the causes.
Sometimes there are internal stains on the teeth, referred to as intrinsic stains by the dentist, this can be as a result of treatment with the antibiotic tetracycline when teeth are forming, aging processes that cause the teeth to turn yellow or grey and possibly trauma to the teeth causing the death of a nerve which can then turn the tooth a greyish, black colour. Whitening is a great way to enhance the smile and make the patient feel confident in themselves.
More often than not a thorough cleaning done by the dentist or hygienist will remove most of the external staining caused by food and tobacco. Staining can be reduced between cleanings with the use of a whitening toothpaste.
Professional Teeth Whitening:
Professional teeth whitening may be necessary if the stains on the teeth have been present for a few years. This will remove the more persistent external stains. The internal stains can be treated by the dentist, and although all the methods are safe, the dentist will decide which is most appropriate based on the state of the teeth. It could depend on the degree and type of staining and the remaining tooth structure. The dentist will decide whether to bleach, bond or cap (crown) the teeth. Most of the dental hygienist can do teeth whitening, but the procedure has to be prescribed by the dentist.
There are a few types of tooth whitening available to patients depending on their circumstances and preferences:
Laser Whitening (In-Surgery): This form of tooth whitening is carried out in the dental practice and involves using a light-activated bleaching gel to whiten the teeth. This technique produces instant whitening results and can take about 1-2 hours. Along with the instant whitening results, many dentists advise that the professional home whitening kits be used.
There is normally a consultation appointment made with the dentist prior to the treatment, this consultation is to ensure the patient is suitable for the teeth whitening procedure and to explain risks and side effects that may arise.
The teeth are then thoroughly cleaned, either by the dentist or a hygienist, so that tartar and surface stains are removed. This is referred to as a scale and polish procedure. The dentist will either take pictures or use a shade guide/chart to determine the shade and colour of the teeth before the treatment.
What’s involved in this procedure?
The dentist will use a bleaching compound that tends to contain approximately 15-22% concentration of peroxide (depends on regulation at that time). To make sure that it is only the teeth that are exposed to the compound the dentist will place a form of protection over the gums, usually a roll of cotton and a protective gel material that will harden once it touches the gums. The dentist will also provide the patient with goggles to ensure the eyes are unharmed by possible sprays or splashes of the peroxide.
The dentist will then apply the gel to the surface of the teeth and expose it to a light or laser, this works to activate the gel and begin the whitening treatment. The gel is left on for about 15 minutes and then removed; this process is repeated twice more. It is not uncommon for some patients to experience sensitivity in their teeth, sometimes described as shooting pains. These do not last for very long. The gel is then washed off and the gum protection is removed. The dentist will then take more photographs or use the shade chart to evaluate the results. The results are instant and often very dramatic, sometimes leaving the teeth almost 10 shades lighter. Custom trays may be fitted for a home whitening treatment with a professional whitening gel.
It Is common for some patients to experience sensitivity after the treatment; the dentist may offer fluoride treatment to reduce it. The home kit also contains a solution that will reduce the sensitivity. Lastly, it is recommended that the patient avoid hot or cold drinks for 48 hours. However, if the symptoms continue it is advised that they contact their dentist.
Custom Fit Tray Whitening (In-Home): With this form of tooth whitening, the dentist will take an impression of the mouth and make a thin custom-fitted plastic tray for the patient. At home, the patient then puts a small amount of bleaching gel inside the tray and wears it for about one to two hours a day. It can sometimes take just a few days for results to be noticed, but usually two weeks for the full effects to be achieved. This is a common technique because of the ease of use and low cost. It is sometimes also used in conjunction with in-office bleaching depending on the degree of discolouration. This method may take up to four visits to the dentist.
Store-Bought Whitening Strips (In-Home): This method uses strips that are fitted over the upper and lower teeth, and can be worn for thirty minutes to an hour once a day. It’s not certified to be sold in the UK. Though it is slightly awkward to talk with the strips, they are comfortable and stay in place. Results start to take effect after a couple of days or up to a week, or possibly up to a month for the slower systems. This seems to be the most common form of tooth whitening in the USA because it is so easy and cost-effective.
People normally whiten their teeth to make themselves feel better. A whiter smile improves appearance and is associated with a healthier lifestyle, it tends to minimalize the appearance of wrinkles giving a more youthful appearance. Of course, as with everything there are disadvantages to the treatment. Sometimes the treatment (bleaching) can make the gums or teeth sore, this is a short-term effect, however. Some people are more chemically sensitive and if this is the case, inform the dentist so that a solution sensitivity test can be done.