Your smile gives a quick, subconscious and visual impression to the people you meet. A bright smile gives the impression of a person’s youth, vitality, happiness, warmth and health.
Most people are satisfied with the sparkle they get from brushing with fluoride toothpaste, regular flossing and regularly going to the dentist for a more intense clean and checkup. If you decide to go beyond your normal teeth maintenance routine for whiter teeth, however, you have several options to choose from. Take note that most teeth whitening products and procedures will not work on dentures, veneers, bondings or crowns. Teeth whitening will only work on natural teeth.
Teeth whitening has become one of the most popular dental cosmetic procedures in the world today. With so many whitening products and dental procedures today, many people have become obsessed with making their teeth whiter. Many people believe that having their teeth whitened can further enhance their looks. Individuals with yellow or grayish tones to their teeth respond best to treatment, although these cosmetic dental procedures are not recommended for everyone.
Why Would You Need Your Teeth Whitened?
As people get older, their teeth become darker. This is due to age, things we eat and drink as well as habits like smoking. Drinking coffee, tea, sodas, red wine, black currant juice and other foods that naturally have dark or strong colors can greatly affect the color of the teeth. Teeth discoloration can also occur as a result of certain medicines such as antibiotics.
Some people have naturally yellow or grayish teeth while others can have white spots on their teeth that indicate the early signs of tooth decay. There are two types of tooth stains:
- Extrinsic stains. This type of staining usually shows on the teeth’s surface as a result of drinking dark beverages, using tobacco and the natural wear and tear of the teeth. This kind of stain is considered minor and can be removed by prophylactic cleaning or brushing. Extrinsic stains can penetrate the dentin if not dealt with early on.
- Intrinsic stains. This type of stain normally forms in the teeth’s interior. These stains are a direct results of trauma, age, mineral exposure during teeth formation and excessive use of fluoride. In the past it was believed that these types of stains were resistant to teeth whitening but modern cosmetic dentistry has made it possible to treat such cases. Intrinsic stains can be removed with home teeth whitening kits that are used over a few months to a year. If procedures fail, dental veneers are the best alternative.
Teeth Whitening Treatments
1. Whitening Toothpastes
All toothpastes sold in supermarkets can help remove stains due to mild abrasives contained in toothpastes. Some whitening toothpastes contain gentle chemicals and polishing agents that provide additional stain removal. These toothpastes can help remove surface stains only and do not contain any bleaching agents. These types of toothpastes can lighten the color of the teeth by about one shade while light activated whitening products provided by your dentist can make your teeth whiter by eight shades.
2. OTC whitening Gels And Strips
Whitening gels are clear gels containing peroxide that are applied with a small brush directly onto the teeth. Directions for use vary by the strength of the peroxide. You need to follow the directions carefully to prevent any teeth or gum damage. Initial results can be seen in a few days and final results can be sustained for 4 months.
Whitening strips on the other hand, are thin and virtually invisible and are coated with a peroxide–based whitening gel. These strips are applied twice a day for 30-45 minutes for 2 weeks. Results can be seen in a few days and the final result is sustained for a few months.
3. Whitening Mouth Rinses
Whitening rinses are some of the newest products for whitening teeth. Like any normal mouthwash, these rinses help reduce the build up of plaque, gum disease and cavities. But unlike any normal mouthwashes, these whitening rinses have hydrogen peroxide in them. Just use them as normal mouth wash and you will see results over 12 weeks.
4. Tray-based Tooth Whiteners
This tooth whitener system can be purchased from your preferred dental office or over the counter. Tray based systems include a mouth guard tray filled with the whitening solution containing the peroxide/bleaching agent. The tray is worn for a few hours every day or during the night for a month or longer depending on the level of tooth discoloration.
5. In-office whitening
This is the quickest and the best method to brighten up your teeth. The dentist applies the treatment directly to the teeth. In-office treatments can involve laser, light or heat in the treatment. Results can be seen immediately after the session, and a session can last between 30 minutes to an hour. This treatment is the most expensive of the lot.
As mentioned earlier, teeth whitening is not for everyone. Teeth whitening is not recommended or will not be successful as expected in the following circumstances:
- Pregnancy and age issues
- Allergies and sensitive teeth
- Exposed roots, cavities, gum disease and worn out enamel
- Crowns, fillings and other restorations
- Darkly stained teeth
- Any unrealistic expectations
Known Risks Of Teeth Whitening
The two known side effects of teeth whitening are mild irritation of the soft tissues of the mouth (like the gums, tongue, inside cheeks) and temporary teeth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity usually happens during the early stages of treatment. Soft tissue irritation is common as a result of ill-fitting mouthpieces or trays. These side effects are temporary and will disappear in a few days after completing the whitening treatment.
Before undergoing any whitening treatment, it is best to consult your dentist to know the proper procedure and possible side effects of over the counter treatments. For in-house treatments, your dentist will be able to guide you throught the post-treatment care of your teeth.