The porcelain-white enamel of our teeth becomes worn down over the years leaving us longing for a whiter, brighter smile. Our teeth are exposed to the staining effects of the foods we consume, the medicine we take, and the lifestyle choices we make. Smoking and coffee consumption are some of the leading causes of extrinsic tooth discoloration, which appears on the outer layer of the tooth (enamel). Tooth whitening has been used with great success for treating both extrinsic and intrinsic tooth discoloration, making your teeth noticeably whiter with several shades.
There are many systems for whitening your teeth, some of which you can do at home with over-the-counter teeth whitening solutions, while other systems can only be performed by a professional dentist.
Home tooth whitening
Over-the-counter tooth whitening systems are easy to use and inexpensive, making them the most popular way to brighten your smile. Home teeth whitening refers to any product that is commercially available for you to use at home. Whitening toothpastes, gels, whitening strips, mouth trays with gel, etc. are effective at removing extrinsic discoloration. If you would like a more in-depth whitening, however, you have to opt for in-office tooth whitening, which is carried out in a dentist’s office.
In-office tooth whitening
Although more expensive than at-home tooth whitening, the tooth whitening carried out by your dentist has several advantages over teeth whitening carried out with over-the-counter whitening products. Given the higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide used for teeth bleaching, a significant colour change can be achieved in a short period.
Before the procedure, the dentist will apply a protective gel on your gums to protect them from the action of the whitening agent. The whitening product will remain on your teeth for about 15 to 20 minute intervals, and its action may be aided by a special light. If the staining is more advanced, you may have to go through several sessions, but generally your teeth will be several shades whiter, in some cases even up to 9 or 10 shades brighter.
Tooth whitening does not produce the same results for all teeth. Thus, if you have dental veneers, fillings, caps or crowns, these may not have the same colour as your newly whitened teeth. Likewise, whitening may not be as effective on yellow teeth caused by recessed gums.
Tooth whitening side effects
Tooth whitening does not involve any risks, especially if it’s carried out under the supervision of a dentist. Apart from tooth sensitivity and irritation of the gums, teeth whitening has no other side effects. Those with tooth sensitivity will be advised to use special toothpastes for sensitive teeth. Gum irritation will last only a few days after teeth bleaching is stopped.
You can prolong the results of teeth whitening, however, with time, the acquired whiteness will once again fade. In order to maintain the results for a longer period, you should observe the following recommendations:
- Avoid drinking or eating dark coloured foods for at least one week after the whitening procedure;
- Use at-home whitening products as a maintenance measure;
- If possible, continue to drink dark coloured beverages only with a straw;
- Practice good oral hygiene – brush and floss at least twice a day.