How many times have you glanced at the mirror or someone else’s smile and thought “Wow, I wish I had white teeth like that?” We all get a little tooth-envy every now and then, but did you know it is easier than you think to get your own pearly whites? Especially with the holiday season coming around the corner, why not flaunt your bright smile?
What is tooth whitening?
Tooth whitening is a popular cosmetic process of lightening the colour of your teeth without removing tooth structure. This can be accomplished through physically removing the stain on your teeth or chemically lightening the tooth colour. The active ingredient used to whiten your teeth is hydrogen or carbamide peroxide.
How does teeth become discolored?
There are two types of stains that affect teeth: extrinsic or intrinsic.
Extrinsic stains are caused by factors that affect the surface of teeth by collecting on the pellicle of tooth surface. Eg: Smoking, pigmentation in food and drinks, antibiotics, metallic stain such as copper and iron.
Intrinsic staining are stains that occur within the tooth surface.
Eg: high levels of fluoride, antibiotics, age related staining, genetics, or developmental factors.
Types of whitening methods
Tray based whitening: This system is available through a dental professional or over the counter. This involves use of a custom-made tray with whitening gel worn for 7-10 days for 30-45 minutes each. Usually the differences can be seen with teeth getting
a shade or two lighter in a few days.
In studio whitening: Quicker results can be achieved through this system. The gel used for in chair whitening is stronger percentage of hydrogen peroxide than take home whitening. Consequently, gum tissues are protected before the gel is applied. The gel is applied in a cycle of 3 x 15 minute sessions. An intense blue light with a wavelength between 480 nm and 520 nm is also used to activate the gel and to achieve a faster result. Results can be achieved in as little as 1 hour.
What about home remedies or OTC products?
Over the counter (OTC) products such as whitening toothpastes, whitening mouthwashes, activated charcoal are all present in the market. Whitening toothpaste typically contain higher amounts of abrasives and detergents than standard toothpastes to remove tougher extrinsic stains. Some toothpaste may contain smaller percentage of hydrogen peroxide which can also help to whiten teeth. There have been cases of increased sensitivity from the abrasiveness of these toothpaste and even peeling of gum tissue as well.
Whitening mouthwashes sometimes contain hydrogen peroxide which react with the chromogens to white teeth. By following manufacturers’ instruction of rinsing 2 x daily for 60 seconds, it can take up to three months to go one or two shades lighter.
There are lots of quick-fix but dubious teeth-whitening solutions—from rubbing banana peel on your teeth, rubbing activated charcoal, to brushing with a mixture of lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda. Many of these home remedies simply do not work, or may contain acids, sugars, and powerful abrasives, which may lead to tooth damage and poorer dental health if used routinely.
Side effects of whitening
Risks associated with tooth whitening is increased tooth sensitivity and mild gingival irritation. They usually occur at the time of treatment and may last for few days. With the use of correct sensitivity toothpaste, the sensitivity does subside.
Women should not be whitening their teeth during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to the potential safety concerns associated to the baby.
What does not whiten?
Dental restorations, such as tooth-coloured fillings, veneers, and crowns will not change colour, as the whitening only takes effect on natural teeth. This can then result in a mismatch between the whitened natural teeth and any such restorations which is a factor to consider when having teeth whitened.
How long will it last?
It’s difficult to predict the results of bleaching as patients may routinely expose teeth to staining food and beverages. However, if the teeth are not exposed to chromogens such as coffee, red wine, cigarette smoke, then it would be reasonable to assume that whitened teeth could persist up to a year.
What to do now?
Tooth whitening can be a positive experience for you if you aren’t happy with your current smile. Schedule an appointment with our Bite Team to discuss the options that may be right for you.
New Year’s resolutions to improve your dental health