Teeth Whitening – trays or ‘take home whitening’
by The Dentist Brisbane
Keep your Pearly-Whites Looking their Whitest
Nothing lights up the day like a beautiful, bright smile. When you brush and floss daily, and visit your dentist for regular cleaning and check-ups, you lay a solid foundation for strong, healthy teeth. But sometimes you need a little help in the teeth whitening department to get a truly great smile. Teeth that are spotted, faded, stained or discolored just don’t make it in the smile department, even if they are basically strong and healthy. That’s where teeth whitening comes in.
How Do Teeth Become Discolored?
We all start out with nice, white teeth. Although sometimes there are genetically-induced variations in the tooth color, for most part our adult teeth come in white and shiny. The natural enamel that coats our teeth is made up of microscopic, crystalline rod-like structures, and it was put there by nature to protect the sensitive, inner layer (called ‘dentine’) from the daily stresses of chewing, grinding and bacterial invasion.
While outer enamel is strong, the forces we can exert while chewing are strong, too. The average bite force in humans is estimated to be 162 lb (73 kgs), which is about the total weight of a typical adult human being. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, the strongest human bite ever measured came in a 975 lb (442 kg). That’s a lot of ‘weight’ to have packed into your jaws!
When your pearly-whites gnash together under this kind of force, all day and every day, over time that sparkling enamel wears down and microscopically fine cracks can develop in it. The dentin layer beneath the enamel can start to show through, giving the teeth a yellow color. Eventually, millions of micro-cracks, invisible to the human eye, cover the surface and collect deposits of stain and food debris. This leaves the teeth looking dull and off-color. Teeth whitening corrects this by cleaning out the debris, so the micro-cracks are now clear and ready to be naturally re-mineralized by the saliva.
While everyone goes through this tooth-dulling process, some people are more vulnerable to it than others. Things that increase tooth discoloration include:
- Genetics – Some people are born with thinner tooth enamel, which is more susceptible to staining.
- Environment – Fluoride is a mineral that helps strengthen teeth, but high intake of fluoride can also discolor them. People living in areas with naturally-occurring but high concentrations of fluoride in their water tend to develop yellowish-brown stains on their teeth.
- Medications – Certain antibiotics, if given to children under 8 when their teeth are still developing, can cause the adult teeth to grow in discolored. Other such sources for staining of adult teeth include some medicated mouthwashes, antihistamines, anti psychotic drugs and drugs for controlling high blood pressure. Radiation therapy in the head and neck area can also discolor the teeth.
- Diseases that affect the enamel or dentin can cause teeth to discolor.
- Tobacco use – Smoking and using chewing tobacco are notorious for staining teeth. Especially when coupled with inadequate brushing, stained and discolored teeth are the inevitable result of tobacco use.
- Food and beverage choices – Foods and drinks known to contribute to tooth staining include coffees, teas, colas, wines and certain fruits and vegetables. Apples and potatoes are examples of the latter.
Options for Teeth Whitening Treatments
The art and science of cosmetic dentistry has developed several treatments for removing stains and whitening teeth. Treatments can be done in the dentist’s office, using laser light, but these are very expensive. Over-the-counter whitening kits can be purchased, but the buyer-beware caution always applies. A middle-ground procedure that gives great results at an acceptable cost is the use of ‘take home’ whitening kits. These kits are individually prepared for each patient in consultation with the dentist and care team.
Professional take-home teeth whitening kits consist of custom-made trays that fit over the upper and lower teeth. The trays contain a highly concentrated peroxide solution that does the actual whitening. Wearing the tray keeps the solution in contact with the teeth, but avoids the sensitive gum areas. Used as recommended, these trays give excellent results after one to two weeks of use.
Obtaining a take-home whitening kit begins with a visit to your dentist. Impressions of your teeth will be taken and sent to a dental laboratory for constructing the trays. At Bite Dental Studio, we exclusively send our lab work to Brisbane’s Southern Suburbs Dental Laboratory, so you’ll know that your kit is locally made using safe materials. Also at this time, we’ll make a record of the ‘baseline’ or existing colors of the teeth. This will give us a point of comparison as we examine your progress during and after the whitening process.
When the trays come back from the laboratory, we’ll have you come in for appointment in which we’ll show you how to use them. We’ll teach you how to dispense the peroxide solution into the tray, and how to apply it to your teeth. Most trays are worn for an hour a day, for a period of up to two weeks. We’ll also give you detailed instructions on the cautions to follow when using the trays:
- Always brush and floss before putting the trays into your mouth.
- After using the tray, please refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking for at least 30 minutes.
- Be sure to save your whitening trays, because they can be used to touch-up the whitening if needed in the future.
After the teeth whitening period is over, we’d like to see you back in our office for follow-up appointment. This will allow us to check your results and record the final color of your teeth. And above all, we want to see your SMILE when you come in to our office with your newly-whitened, bright and shiny teeth!