Tooth whitening has become the top aesthetic procedure for dental patients, and there are a variety of methods and products available to make your smile brighter.
Professional bleaching or tooth whitening is a non-invasive and simple dental treatment that changes the color of tooth enamel, making it an ideal way to improve any smile. There are effective over-the-counter products available, but these are often less effective than professional treatments.
As people age, the tooth enamel’s outer layer wears off. This eventually allows a dark or yellow surface to show through. This color comes from deep inside the tooth, and the color may get darker with age. Other factors including smoking as well as drinking coffee, tea or wine also contribute to the discoloration of teeth, allowing teeth to appear dull and yellow. Some medications, including tetracycline, can discolor teeth, and so can excess fluoridation during the development of teeth.
It’s essential to have your teeth professionally evaluated by a dentist to make sure you’re a good candidate for teeth whitening. Sometimes, stains from over fluoridation or tetracycline are hard to bleach out, so the dentist may offer other options like crowns or veneers to cover stains. Whitening only works on natural enamel, so along with whitening it may be necessary to replace old fillings, crowns or other restorations. These new restorations can be matched to the results of the whitened teeth.
Since whitening is never permanent, touchups may be needed every few years or more often as necessary to make sure your smile is bright and white.
Teeth whitening systems are divided generally into two types:
- Home teeth whitening systems. At-home whitening products most often come in gel form and involve custom-fitted trays made from a mold of your teeth. The trays are intended to be worn two times each day for 30 minutes or overnight. It often takes a number of weeks to get the results you desire, depending on how much staining there is and how white you want your teeth.
- In-office teeth whitening. Done in the dentist’s office, in-office treatments give immediate results. More than one visit may be required, and each visit should last 30 to 60 minutes. With gum protection applied, the teeth are bleached with a solution. A special light may be used to speed up and improve the action of the bleaching agent.
It isn’t uncommon to experience tooth sensitivity after tooth whitening. This is temporary and goes away soon after completion of the bleaching process. The sensitivity may last a few days or up to one week.
Teeth whitening is a sensible and effective way to brighten and whiten teeth that might be right for you.