With so much about teeth whitening in media, dental clinics and drugstores, whitening your teeth for the first time can leave you feeling like you came late to the party. Teeth whitening is the most common cosmetic procedure in dental offices today. Questions about what to use and how can seem impossible to answer with such a variety of whitening products. Don’t invest in anything just yet – understand the differences between whitening products first and invest in the right one for you.
Teeth Whitening 101
Teeth whitening is the process of bleaching the teeth that show when you smile in order to lighten their shade. The effectiveness of the treatment was first discovered in the 1980s when dentists were using peroxide solutions to resolve and treat periodontal disease. The peroxide was a gentle but effective antiseptic to kill bacteria, but it had an unintended side effect – patients’ teeth were getting lighter and brighter with every treatment.
Peroxide looks similar to H2O (water) but differs by one oxygen molecule (H2O2). It is diluted from its pure form prior to be used in clinical settings and is a safe and effective way to whiten teeth without professional restorations like bonding or veneers.
The peroxide has inherent properties that make it easy for it to pass through the enamel and onto the dentin, which makes up the bulk of our teeth. Dentin is sensitive when not adequately protected by enamel, and can become sensitive with whitening products, too. That is because as the peroxide sits against the outer layer of your teeth, it dehydrates it slightly in the process.
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What to Consider
If you find yourself concerned about the shade of your teeth, you should know that some degree of darkening is to be expected as our teeth age, so be kind to yourself in terms of your expectations. After all, natural tooth shades vary greatly, and each will catch the light differently. Ever wonder why your teeth look whiter in some rooms than others?
If your tooth shade is due to a genetic condition, your dentist may recommend a more long-term solution to your discolouration concerns. Cosmetic dentistry offers several options to correct the shade and appearance of your teeth.
If your tooth is gray and previously had a root canal performed, your dentist will need to bleach your tooth from the inside. To accomplish this, he will drill a small hole in the back of the tooth in order to clean out the discoloured debris before injecting a small amount of peroxide bleaching solution into the core of the tooth. The solution is left in the tooth for a day or two before being cleaned out and closed with a filling. This allows the bleaching agent to work from the inside-out rather than the outside-in, as is typically done.
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Whitening Isn’t Forever
It’s important to note that whitening treatments, although effective, do not prevent your teeth from further staining. That means that whitening your teeth and then drinking or smoking is likely to return your teeth to an unsatisfactory shade, just as before. If you are thinking about making some changes to your lifestyle, teeth whitening is a great motivator!
Perhaps the most important thing to know about teeth whitening is the fact that there are real differences in the concentration and delivery methods of each product. While over-the-counter whitening products contain a limited amount of active ingredient, your dentist uses a clinical-strength concentration, thereby helping you make the best of your investment.
Dentists offer a superior whitening experience, since they can offer supporting treatments to help ease tooth sensitivity after whitening. Before the whitening treatment, your dentist will apply a gum barrier to the areas that are likely to come in contact with the bleaching solution. This avoids painful chemical burns on the soft tissues which add to patient discomfort and is often the real source of sensitivity.
In order to offer further comfort, your dentist will follow your treatment with a rehydrating solution. This solution penetrates the enamel just like whitening does and rehydrates the dentin to reduce sensitivity.
Ask Your Dentist
Before making a decision about which product is best for you, talk to your dentist about the costs involved. You may find that whitening sessions are comparatively priced and more effective right at your dentist’s office. Consider booking whitening sessions along with your regular maintenance appointments.
If you have questions about this or other services offered by our general dentist, contact our clinic today.
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