Teeth Whitening Methods and Risks
Your smile may be the first thing that someone notices about you, and if you want brighter and whiter teeth, there are some things that you may want to know about teeth whitening. Teeth whitening is a cosmetic dental procedure sometimes referred to as dental bleaching, yet there is a difference in definition. Teeth whitening restores the teeth to their natural color, and bleaching whitens teeth beyond the natural color. There are many reasons that teeth may become discolored, and there are professional procedures as well as home procedures that may help to whiten your teeth.
Reasons for Tooth Discoloration
Deciduous teeth, or primary teeth, are generally whiter than adult teeth that follow. Teeth become darker when their mineral structure changes, and as enamel becomes less porous. Bacterial pigments, various dark-colored foods and beverages, tobacco, acidic foods, and some antibiotic medications contribute to the staining of teeth, as well as microscopic cracks in the enamel from age, and use.
Two types of teeth stains are extrinsic, meaning the stains on the surface of the teeth, and intrinsic stains, which are stains within the tooth structure that are caused by trauma, aging, or exposure to tetracycline or excessive fluoride as a child. Microscopic cracks also fill with stains and debris, and these millions of cracks in the enamel result from everyday use in chewing.
Types of Teeth Whitening
In-Office Bleaching – Cosmetic dentists specialize in teeth whitening, and may use washes, gels, laser light, or a combination of procedures. Teeth will generally be examined and cleaned initially, and tooth color will be discussed, using a shade chart. A cheek retractor is inserted, a hardening resin is painted on the gums to protect them from the bleach, and bleaching gel is applied for 15 to 30 minutes. This gel is suctioned or rinsed off, and fresh gel is again applied for 15-30 more minutes. Intense laser light may also be used to activate or enhance bleaching gels. The cost on an average is $650 per treatment.
Over-The-Counter Or Dentist Supplied Whiteners – These whiteners are used at home, and can be toothpaste, whitening strips, whitening trays or bleaching pens, and usually contain baking soda, carbamide peroxide, or hydrogen peroxide. Most over-the-counter whitening toothpaste include minor abrasives, which scrub stains from the enamel. Many of these products do work, yet will not produce the results of a professional bleaching, because the active agents, such as peroxide, do not remain on the teeth long enough to whiten a great deal, unless used often. These products can cost anywhere from $20-$100 on average.
Natural Bleaching – Some fruits and vegetables contain malic acid, which is an organic compound, and may help to whiten teeth. Baking soda may also be used in brushing, as a mild abrasive to scrub stains from the outer enamel.
Risks of Teeth Whitening
The primary risk to your teeth from whitening is damage to the enamel. Using whitening products excessively, or brushing too hard, and too often, may damage the enamel of the tooth, exposing it, which will lead to tooth sensitivity. Gum irritation may result from using hydrogen peroxide, also leading to teeth sensitivity issues.
You should not have your teeth whitened if you are pregnant or nursing, due to the risk of ingesting peroxide. Another risk is called “technicolor teeth”, meaning that teeth are colored differently due to porcelain veneer, bonding, or crowns not being whitened to match other teeth. The whitening substances used, do not affect any previous dental work, so your newly whitened teeth may not match the previously added dental materials.
Remember to have realistic expectations of any teeth-whitening procedure. When teeth are whitened, they will return to their natural color, which is dictated by genetics, and your lifestyle. When teeth are bleached, bleach them only as white as any porcelain dental work you have had, so that your natural teeth and any dentistry work will match. Whitening results are not fully seen until approximately two weeks after bleaching, so if desired results are not seen immediately, wait to make sure, before seeking another procedure.