Teeth Whitening Guide
What is whitening?
Whitening is, without stating the obvious, the methods employed by dentists to remove discolouration from the teeth. Just one treatment of whitening can make teeth up to 8 shades whiter. Everyone is varied and starting from a different point area however 8 shades is a large amount and will be very noticeable.
When we see someone with the perfect Hollywood smile it can sometimes look a bit over the top but it works. At a subconscious level, we react to smile making teeth health a big factor in how others perceive us. Good teeth are seen by all of us as a sign of good health. Whether trying to attract the opposite sex or just trying to make an impression, dull or discoloured teeth are seen as a negative in most cases. 96% of people value a smile in attractiveness.
What causes teeth to be discoloured?
There are many causes of tooth discolouration. Food and drink are a main culprit and include tea, coffee, red wine and apples. Smoking is a big factor in discolouration. Age is also a cause as the enamel starts to fade we we get older. Incorrect brushing, medications and even certain medical conditions can have an effect as well. Each tooth has an outer enamel layer to protect the inner dentin layer. As food, drink or smoke enter the mouth, new layers form on top of the enamel. This is called a pellicle form and will dull the tooth colour.
How is whitening performed?
When you begin the whitening procedure the gums and teeth must be relatively healthy and will be checked by a dentist for suitability. Teeth whitening can be completed at home in the form of bleaching but it is highly recommended it is performed by a dentist. Firstly they can administer the correct dose. Dentists can also use a more concentrated solution . It is worth explaining that all forms of whitening works when oxygen ions are released from a gel. This gel lifts stains from the teeth. This will not remove existing enamel. The process is not permanent and teeth will begin to stain again if consuming the foods or drinks that cause it.
There are a few ways to get those teeth white and the main ones are as follows:-
Professional bleaching is the most common method of tooth whitening currently available. This involves the use of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide applied with a custom made mouth guard or as a gel. It is known as tray whitening. This is due to the high concentration of hydrogen peroxide/carbamide used in this process. The process is not dangerous but can burn the gums if exposed. Your dental team will tell you if you are eligible for the treatment as the gums and teeth require a certain level of health. A good dentist would always protect against this. This normally takes 2 -4 weeks of regular home application but can be compressed into longer sessions.
There are options to bleach at home using teeth whitening kits or gels. It is always recommended to get expert advice before attempting home application and there is always a risk. For example, although the kits will have a much lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide, it still can cause a burn if the gums are not protected properly.
Laser or light accelerated
Laser teeth whitening is becoming more popular. The name is a bit misleading as laser whitening is an older technology and should be known as light accelerated as it is more likely to be an LED or halogen. It is also known as power assisted. The procedure works with a bleaching product applied to the teeth. A light is then applied which creates a reaction at the chemical level to lift the stains. The process involves the mouth being held open by a rubber guard followed by a barrier put over the gums in the form of a gel. A compound is added to the teeth and the laser is then shone to remove the stains. This cannot be done at home for obvious reasons and the process normally takes an hour.
Strips are near transparent and coated with a peroxide based whitening gel. The process involves applying twice a day for around 30 minutes. This should be done for two weeks and should last for a few months.
Recently released on the market, rinses are similar to mouthwash but also contain hydrogen peroxide. The process is to swill in the mouth for a minute for 12 weeks. This is normally completed before the teeth are cleaned. It is a long process due to the limited contact in the mouth.
How long does it last
Its important to remember teeth whitening is not permanent. If you get out on the red wine, coffee or smoking it is doubtful the effects would last more than a few months however if you take care of them it could last up to 3 years.
Although the Dentists listed on this site will reduce all risks to an absolute minimum, it is important to show the potential issues with the process
– Hypersensitivity- this is caused by open dentinal tubules. Hot and cold items could react.
– Uneven spread – At first the colour may appear uneven. This will even out over time. It normally happens if eating or drinking items that discolour.
– Back to the colour started before treatment – half the initial colour change could be lost in seven days. This comes from tooth dehydration and is reversible
– Over Bleaching – this is normally caused by intense treatments
– Enamel degradation – Normally caused by home whitening kits
Bleachorexia – Abuse of bleaching by the patient whose teeth will not get any whiter
The best place to get your teeth whitened is at a recommended dentist. Any dentist who whitens teeth will be registered with the general dental council. This can be checked here. Of course, if you are in the UK then feel free to check the links here. All dentists are highly regarded and experts in their field and all dentists listed on this site can give more detailed information in regard to everything listed on this page.