How does Teeth Whitening Work?

Teeth Whitening

Discolored teeth can mar anyone’s smile. Teeth whitening is one of the most popular procedures of cosmetic dentistry opted by many people these days. Also referred to as tooth bleaching, this is a method of removing stains from teeth. It involves using tooth whiteners, or bleaching agents in the form of peroxide gels to get a brighter smile.

When we consume various types of food, or beverages like coffee, tea, wine, or soda our teeth get stained. Habitual smokers also have a tendency of getting discolored and stained teeth over a period of time. It occurs because the enamel on our teeth is porous, and therefore various stains get absorbed deeply into the teeth, which cannot be scoured away by simple brushing. Although the stains are generally quite harmless, most people think they are not attractive. This is the reason why tooth whiteners are used. They get right into the enamel and remove the stains.

There are two types of procedures offered these days, an ‘in-office’ method and ‘at-home method’. In the former the procedure is carried out in the dentist’s office, and in the latter tooth bleaching kit, along with customized trays, are available which can be used at home. The in-office method shows immediate results, whereas the at-home method takes a little more time for the effects to be apparent. In both the methods compounds based on peroxide of varying degrees of strength are used for the process.

In-Office Teeth Whitening

In this procedure, the dentist begins by cleaning your teeth thoroughly, and then places protective material in your mouth in order to protect the gums, the insides of the cheeks, and the lips from the chemicals that are applied on the teeth. Then, a special light or laser is used in order to activate the bleaching agent. After it is activated, it is allowed to remain on the teeth for about 15 to 20 minutes. Some offices repeat this procedure in three sessions.

The advantage of carrying out the procedure in a dentist’s office is that the effects are immediate, and it takes very less time. Usually, it takes just about 45 minutes in all for the complete procedure. In fact, during the consultation period, you can determine how much you want your teeth to be whitened by referring to tooth shade charts.

The disadvantages are that it is expensive and there are higher chances of tooth sensitivity after the procedure due to more potent tooth whiteners. The chances are even higher when it is performed in a single session. However, the tooth sensitivity is temporary.

At-Home Tooth Bleaching

The at-home systems that are available, range from the gel kits prescribed and provided by the dentist to the ones available over-the-counter. The OTC teeth whitening strips which are prescribed by the dentist provides are the most effective results. Most of these kits come with mouth trays that are meant to be filled with the tooth whitening gel, which are placed on the teeth for varying lengths of time. The time required may vary from just a few minutes to overnight. The results are apparent in about 5 to 10 days. The advantages of this method are that it is less expensive and re-treatment can be done whenever required. Even though the results may take a longer time, eventually the effects are not very different from the procedure done in the dentist’s office.

Factors Affecting Teeth Whitening

Even though the procedures are usually effective, it can vary from person to person. Plus, many people find that their teeth become fairly sensitive immediately after the procedure, and hence are advised to void drinking cold or hot beverages for some time. Sometimes, dentists provide fluoride treatment after the procedure, in order to lessen the effects of sensitivity.

Also, in case when high concentrations of a bleaching agent is used and the areas in the mouth are not adequately protected, it may result in chemical burns in the mouth. Sometimes, an over-bleaching effect may be produced, which is not attractive. Other side effect can be rebounding, teeth darkening, or losing the whitening effect.

Sometimes the discoloration of the teeth may be so acute that it may not be resolved by whitening alone. If that is the case, veneers may be more effective, which one can discuss with his/her dentist.


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