Ever envy celebrities flashing their dazzling, white smiles? Well, you can obtain similar results by dental bleaching or commonly known as tooth whitening. Being a part of cosmetic dentistry, tooth bleaching have become one of the most requested services provided by the dental profession today.
Why teeth whitening?
With lighter, brighter, whiter teeth; you will feel better about your smile and have an improved outlook in life. It is aesthetically pleasing and helps boost your self confidence too. Moreover you will tend to be more interested in taking care of your teeth and your overall wellbeing.
What causes the stains on my teeth?
Discoloration of teeth can be caused by extrinsic stains (beverages/food, smoking, drugs, poor oral hygiene) or intrinsic stains (caries, diseases, drugs, filling materials, fluorosis) as well as the physiological aging of teeth.
What are the teeth whitening methods?
Depending on the amount of stain and its origin, various methods can be employed like:
This is a controlled removal of extrinsic stain on tooth surface to improve discoloration that is achieved by combining abrasion and erosion using hydrochloric acid pumice, sometimes termed “abrosion”.
Non-vital bleaching/Walking bleach technique
Normally used to lighten root canal-treated teeth that have turned dark, this method uses a thick paste of hydrogen peroxide, sodium perborate or a combination of both placed on the surface of the non-vital tooth. An evaluation or another possible treatment will be performed as instructed by your dentist.
Vital bleaching/Power bleaching/Laser teeth whitening
This method involves application of bleaching liquids or gels (30-35% hydrogen peroxide) often with application of heat and curing light (power bleaching) or argon/carbon-dioxide laser (laser teeth whitening). The bleaching agent is applied every 10-15 minutes for 3-4 applications and it usually takes three appointments. For laser treatment, whitening can be done in an hour in a single visit for the light energy accelerates the bleaching process.
Find out more about laser teeth whitening here.
Home bleaching/Nightguard Vital Bleaching
A gel of 10-15% carbamide peroxide in a custom-fit tray is advocated by the dentist for home bleaching. This is worn for typically 8 hours each day for about two weeks and is usually the preferred technique. Normally three appointments are required for the treatment.
Over-the-counter whitening products
Many products are available to whiten teeth like teeth whitening strips, teeth whitening gel or pen, at-home teeth whitening kits, teeth whitening toothpaste and whitening rinse. Generally bleaching agents of lower concentrations than professionally prescribed are used. Despite saving on dental expenses, problems may arise due to misdiagnosing and self-prescribing products that may be inappropriate with your dental condition.
When there is heavy staining and whitening proved ineffective, the defects can be masked using composites, veneers or crowns. The most permanent method of whitening is porcelain veneers.
You can have one or the other or a combination of methods to meet your needs but there are some considerations you need to take note of: number of visits to the dental office versus the amount of time the bleaching trays are worn at home, expense of in-office bleaching and the amount of guidance and instructions you will require. Furthermore, teeth whitening procedures are most effective on individuals with yellowish teeth discoloration and the bleaching effect can last for several months to years depending on the individual’s lifestyle.
Are there any risks to teeth whitening?
Some side effects reported include gums and soft tissue irritation, altered taste and more commonly teeth sensitivity after treatment. However be rest-assured that these conditions are temporary and would disappear upon stopping or completing treatment. Filings and other restorative materials are usually not affected by bleaching therefore maintaining their default color which can lead to different shades on the tooth. Thus if you have sensitive teeth and gums with defective restorations, it is best you consult your dentist before using any whitening products. Pregnant or lactating women and children below 16 are advised to avoid teeth whitening for health reasons.
How much would teeth whitening cost?
In-office bleaching can range from $400-$900 with laser teeth whitening being the most expensive option. Home bleaching can be from $100-$400 whereas the cheapest teeth whitening method would be the over-the-counter whitening products that can cost around $20-$100. Do note that even though over-the-counter products are affordable, problems may arise without proper supervision so do consult your dentist before trying them out.
How to maintain your pearly whites?
Teeth whitening is not a permanent treatment so try to avoid dark-colored beverages (tea, coffee, wine) and food for a week after treatment and decrease intake and smoking soon after, perform at-home maintenance whitening and practice good oral hygiene (brush twice daily with use of dental aids) to prevent further staining of teeth.