Posts for tag: tooth bleaching
If you're looking to improve the appearance of your smile, tooth whitening treatments — whether done at home or in our office — are a popular option. Here are the answers to some questions that many people ask before they begin the process.
Q: Are commonly used tooth-whitening methods safe?
A: Yes — provided they are used as directed. A large body of research has shown that using the correct concentration of peroxide — the bleach that whitens teeth — for the proper amount of time is not known to cause any major health problems. However, there have been cases where poor-quality bleaching solutions and/or excessive usage have caused deterioration of tooth enamel and extreme gum sensitivity. Always follow our office's recommendation.
Q: Does this mean I have to have in-office treatments to whiten my teeth?
A: No. But you should come in for a thorough dental examination, with x-rays, before you begin whitening treatments. Why? Because if there is trouble with the underlying tooth structure, then whitening the tooth is like painting over rusty metal: It hides the symptom, but doesn't fix the problem. Abscesses and root-canal problems are just two of the underlying causes of tooth discoloration that should be treated before teeth are whitened.
Q: What are some different methods for whitening teeth, and how long do they take?
A: The fastest is in-office whitening treatments, using a strong bleaching solution and appropriate gum protection. Next comes the cost-effective method of at-home bleaching with custom-made flexible plastic trays (sometimes called nightguard vital bleaching.) If you're not in a hurry, over-the-counter (OTC) products can do the same thing — given enough time. One study comparing different whitening treatments found that a six-shade improvement in whitening was accomplished by three in-office treatments. A week was needed for custom-tray bleach applications, or 16 daily applications of OTC products, to achieve comparable results.
Q: Can any tooth be made bright white?
A: No. Every tooth has a maximum level of whiteness, beyond which it can't get any lighter. Furthermore, fillings, crowns and other dental restorations can't be lightened with bleach — another reason to talk to our office; we can help you achieve the best possible look for your particular smile.
Q: How long will my white teeth last?
A: It depends. No whitening method is permanent, but the typical result lasts for up to two years. To preserve that bright smile, you can take some positive steps: Avoid tobacco and beverages that stain, like red wine, tea and coffee; keep up with regular cleanings in our office; and, practice good oral hygiene at home. You can also have a touch-up treatment once or twice a year.
If you need more information about tooth whitening, or you're ready to start the process, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”
Dental professionals sometimes use specialized words, and you may not be clear about exactly what we mean. Test yourself on some of the specialized vocabulary concerning tooth whitening. How many of the following can you define correctly?
A method of making yellow, discolored teeth whiter. It is relatively inexpensive and safe, with few side effects.
2. External or extrinsic staining and whitening?
Extrinsic staining mainly results from diet and smoking. For example, foods such as red wine, coffee and tea can produce extrinsic stain. Teeth with these stains are bleached by placing whitening substance in direct contact with the living tooth surface.
3. Internal or intrinsic staining and whitening?
Intrinsic tooth discoloration is caused by changes in the structure of enamel, dentin, or pulp tissue deep within the root of the tooth. When the discoloration originates with the pulp tissue, root canal treatment may be needed to whiten the tooth from the inside.
4. Chromogenic material?
Color generating material that may get incorporated into the tooth's substance. It can be a result of wear and aging, or can be caused by inflammation within the tooth's pulp.
5. Carbamide Peroxide?
A bleaching agent discovered in the 1960s and frequently used for tooth whitening. When used, carbamide peroxide breaks into its component parts, hydrogen peroxide and urea, which bleach the colored organic molecules that have been incorporated between the crystals of the tooth's enamel.
6. Power Bleaching?
This technique is used for severely stained tooth. It uses a highly concentrated peroxide (35 to 45 percent) solution placed directly on the teeth, often activated by a heat or light source. This must be done in our office.
An antibiotic used to fight bacterial infections. It can result in tooth staining when taken by children whose teeth are still developing.
8. Rubber Dam?
Use of strong bleaching solutions requires protection for the gums and other sensitive tissues in your mouth. This is done using a rubber dam, a barrier to prevent the material from reaching your gums and the skin inside your mouth. Silicone and protective gels may also be used.
9. Whitening Strips?
Strips resembling band-aids that you can use in your home to whiten your teeth. They generally contain a solution of 10 percent or less carbamide peroxide gel. When using them, be sure to read the directions and follow them strictly to avoid injury or irritation.
10. Fade Rate?
The effects of bleaching may fade over time, from six months to two years. This is called the fade rate. It can be slowed down by avoiding habits such as smoking, along with food or drink that causes tooth staining.
Once an exclusive procedure reserved for movie stars and millionaires, teeth whitening has become increasingly popular among all sectors of the population — including teens. While long-standing research has proven the process to be safe and effective, there are a few things everyone should know in order to make the experience as pleasant and successful as possible.
Teens, perhaps even more than others, can benefit from the confidence that comes with a healthy smile. And, because sensitivity of the gums is rarely a problem in younger people, their whitening treatments are less likely to cause discomfort. However, it's important for teens (and everyone else) to get treatments under the watchful eye of a dentist. Why?
For one thing, immature adult teeth are relatively vulnerable to the whitening process. And for young and old alike, a discolored tooth may be a symptom of an underlying dental problem, like an abscess or a root canal infection. These problems must be treated before the whitening process is begun. Also, teeth can't always be lightened to the same degree, and existing or planned dental work may have an impact on the whitening procedure. So it's best to come in and see us before you begin any tooth whitening treatment.
There are generally three methods used in tooth-whitening: in-office treatments with concentrated bleach application, at-home treatments with custom-made trays and appropriate dentist-supplied bleach, and over-the-counter (OTC) products. All use a type of peroxide to lighten the teeth, and all are safe when used as directed, under a dentist's supervision.
So what's the difference? Time! One study showed as few as three in-office visits were needed to lighten tooth color by six shades — a change that required 16 days with OTC products. Many opt for the cost-effective middle ground of custom-tray bleaching, which can achieve the same whitening in one week.
But what's especially important for a teen is that a dentist becomes involved in his or her treatment. In some cases, over-enthusiastic young people have used OTC bleach excessively, causing severe damage to the enamel layer of their teeth.
If you would like more information about teeth whitening for teens, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about these issues by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Whitening Safety Tips” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”