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What is tooth whitening?

Dentistry Clinic

Dentistry Clinic

  Babusahabpalya, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   6 min     



Brushing and flossing generally keep your teeth healthy. However, due to various factors, your teeth may lose their shine and become more yellow. In order to regain that lost sparkle, you can consider teeth whitening.

What is Tooth Whitening?

Tooth whitening is one of the most common and popular cosmetic dental procedures that lightens teeth and removes stains and discolouration. It is not a one-time procedure and can be repeated to maintain the bright colour. It is one of the most effective ways to lighten your natural teeth colour. It does not involve the removal of any tooth surface. The tooth whitening procedure will not completely change the colour of your teeth, but it may lighten it by a few shades.

Do I Need to Undergo Teeth Whitening?

People generally have various reasons as to why they go for tooth whitening. We come across various people all the time, who have varying hair to skin tones, etc. And in certain cases, we also meet people with sparkling white teeth. And such a shade is realistically impossible, as your teeth undergo discolouration as we age.

Besides that, consuming food and drinks like coffee, tea, red wine, or black currant (basic food with deep natural dyes) could also add to staining your teeth. Smoking is another contributor to teeth staining.

Our teeth also may get stained if there are tiny cracks that absorb some stains, as well as having dental calculus or tartar can cause a difference in how your teeth is coloured.

Antibiotics also contribute staining under the surface. 

So, there are many reasons why our teeth lose colour or get stained. In order to get our teeth back to its original whiteness or have a dazzling smile, people go for tooth whitening. 

How Does it Work?

There are different types of tooth whitening procedure, but the most common one is professional bleaching. This basically involves you getting checked by your dentist, who will decide if you are eligible for the procedure, and will supervise the treatment entirely. 

Professional bleaching is a fairly simple procedure that begins with the dentist covering your gums with a protective gel or rubber shield.

Once your gums are protected, a specially made tray, appearing like a mouthguard is put into your mouth. This tray acts as a medium to apply the whitening product. The whitening product contains an active ingredient, i.e., the bleach, which could either be hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. The active ingredient then breaks down, letting oxygen into the tooth enamel, leading to a less concentrated colour and lighter coloured teeth. In the end, you have a brighter smile.

Tooth whitening can only help with brightening the colour of natural teeth; it is not effective against dentures, crowns or veneers. If these “false teeth” lose colour then visit your orthodontist and ask for it to be cleaned.

How long is the Teeth Whitening Procedure?

If you include all the pre-dental consults with your orthodontist, then the procedure takes up to three to four weeks. The initial consultation involves visiting the dentist to see if you can get the procedure done. Then your mouth impressions are taken to make a proper mouth guard. Once the dentist begins the whitening, there are some additional things you must do at home. Basically, you will have to apply the product the doctor has given in the following weeks (two-four weeks) for a given amount of time; usually 30 to 60 minutes.

In recent times, a new product has been developed, which you have to apply over 8 hours and you will get bright results within a week.

Does it work on All Kinds of Teeth?

Whiteners give no assurance that it will correct all types of discolouration. Therefore, it is important to talk to your dentist. Yellow teeth will probably bleach well, but brown or teeth with grey tones may not respond well to bleaching. If you have caps, veneers, crowns or fillings or discolouration caused by medications or tooth injury; whitening may not work.

Whitening Methods

There are other ways to achieve white teeth.

Whitening Toothpaste

Whitening toothpaste removes surface stain through the mild abrasives that scrub the teeth. Special chemicals or polishing agents are used to provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, these toothpastes do not change the colour of the teeth because they only remove surface stains.

Whitening toothpastes are easily acquired from the market. Although they do help in removing teeth stains, they have no effect on the natural colour of the teeth. But removing the stains does help with the overall appearance of the teeth. 

Using a whitening toothpaste after getting your tooth whitened, ensures that the bright colour lasts longer. 

In-Office Bleaching 

This is a dental procedure, which is done at a dental clinic. Your orthodontist will apply a protective gel or a rubber shield to protect your gums. After ensuring that the gums are protected, the dentist applies bleach to the teeth.

At-Home Bleaching

There are peroxide-containing whiteners available that bleach the tooth enamel. They come in a gel, placed in a tray fitting on your teeth. You can also use a whitening strip that sticks to your teeth. These have a lower concentration of bleaching agents than the ones used by dentists.

These home-kits are preferred as they are cheaper, but one must take care to remember that they are not properly checked for safety and might be more acidic. And high acidity can lead to damage in the teeth and gums.

Always consult a dentist before you consider using a tooth-whitening kit.

In different countries, there are different regulations which dictate the number of peroxide levels allowed. In some countries in Europe, only low levels of peroxide are allowed, which is insufficient for teeth whitening; thus, a proper dental procedure is the only option. 

Side Effects of Tooth Whitening

Whitening does not usually cause serious side effects. Some people may experience teeth sensitivity for a short while. This occurs when the peroxide in the teeth whiteners manages to breach the enamel, which is the soft layer of the teeth that protects the inner nerve. When the enamel is exposed, it irritates the nerve inside, causing pain, especially when exposed to extreme heat or cold. You may experience mild gum irritation as well. Pregnant women should avoid this procedure. Overuse of whiteners can damage the tooth enamel.

Always consult a dentist before you try any at-home procedure.

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Tags:  Dental treatments,oral hygiene ,tooth discolouration, teeth whitening, cosmetic dental procedures, teeth bleaching

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