Do you find your teeth yellow? Do you brush your teeth twice or three times in a day, but find you are still not happy with the colour of your teeth? Have you tried those whitening toothpastes and they don’t seem to make any difference?
The fastest way to look younger is to whiten your smile. Yellowing teeth is one of the most obvious signs of aging. The American belief is that the brighter and whiter your smile, the younger and happier you’ll feel.
Luckily, it’s also one that is easily fixed.
The process and methods of teeth whitening
Dental bleaching is the process of changing your teeth colour to a brighter shade. A bleaching agent is used in this technique. There are a variety of products on the market; the most popular Peroxide types are Hydrogen Peroxide and Carbamide Peroxide. Peroxide strength varies between 25-40 %.
For patients seeking non-Peroxide options, Titanium Dioxide and Chlorine Dioxide may be used.
Bleach times can vary from just 5 minutes, up to an hour; and 3 to 5 cycles may be required for best results. Since the chemical used in acidic in nature, three or four sittings are recommended.
A “blue light” is used to activate a gel (essentially a bleach) on your teeth. Your Dentist will apply neutralizer after each sitting, to avoid the teeth being overly sensitive to hot and cold. Some degree of sensitivity is unavoidable, but most who have the procedure done find that the sensitivity is worth having their teeth many shades lighter.
Also available are non-acidic teeth whitening processes, which are more advanced and less damaging than the acidic options. Home-use bleaching kits involve placing a hydrogen peroxide solution in a bleaching tray, which is worn over patients’ teeth at night, for up to two weeks. This is the second most popular treatment.
Each technique can make teeth up to 11 shades lighter. The main difference is that home bleaching takes up to two weeks, whereas a laser treatment takes around 30 minutes.
These techniques target stain particles from food and drink, which get trapped in the surface layers of tooth enamel. People sometimes confuse teeth whitening with teeth cleaning. Teeth whitening is the process of actually bleaching the surface of the teeth; and teeth cleaning refers to dental scaling, which removes superficial stains and tartar.
Is bleaching safe for your teeth?
The bleach is only placed on the tooth enamel, which is dead (like nails or hair), and your gums are protected, which is the main cause of concern. It’s up to your dentist to determine whether your gums and teeth are suitable for bleaching.
There has been talk that bleaching teeth can cause demineralisation. Studies have shown these concerns are unfounded, and demineralisation can occur on bleached or unbleached teeth, usually from bacteria which is fed by sugar.
Keep in mind that bleaching techniques won’t always work for everyone. Tooth staining can be caused by antibiotics such as tetracycline, which discolours the tooth enamel itself. In these cases, there is only a 10 or 20 per cent chance that bleaching techniques would be effective.
If you find that your gums are white or sore after bleaching teeth, follow up with your dentist.
Whitening is not a permanent solution. The stains will come back. If you smoke or consume a lot of staining foods or drinks, you may see the whiteness start to fade in as little as one month. If you avoid these sources of staining, you may not need another whitening treatment for 6 to 12 months.
Re-whitening can be done in the dentist’s office or at home. If you have a custom-made mouthpiece and whitening agent at home, you can whiten your teeth as frequently as you need to. Discuss your whitening schedule with your dentist. You can talk about what whitening products would work best for you.