What is Tooth whitening?
Tooth whitening is actually a bleaching process that lightens discoloration of enamel and dentin.
What causes tooth discolouration?
Tooth discolourations are of two types, internal and external. External discolourations are caused by the consumption of staining substances like tea, coffee, colas, pan, pan masala, supari, tobacco, smoking etc. These discolorations are easy to remove and teeth become lighter, quickly.
Internal discolorations occur due to a disturbance in the structure of the tooth. Common causes are ageing, trauma, excessive use of tetracycline (antibiotic) and fluoride during the early stages of tooth development, nerve degeneration and old restorations. These discolorations are more resistant to treatment and the teeth usually take a little longer to become lighter.
Who can benefit from tooth whitening?
Almost everyone. The tooth-lightening system is ideal for patients who have healthy, unrestored teeth and would like to have a whiter, brighter smile. There are however some situations in which this treatment may not be very effective. In such cases, other cosmetic procedures may be required in order to obtain the desired aesthetic results.
How does tooth whitening work?
There are two techniques which are commonly used to brighten teeth:
1) Dentist-supervised "at-home" technique
This system uses a mild bleaching gel which is retained in a custom-fitted tray that fits over your teeth. The appliance is to be worn for a few hours a day. You have the option of using this system, either during the day as the custom-fitted tray is transparent and not very visible or while sleeping at night.
The first step in this procedure involves the taking of an impression of the patient's mouth. A stone model is made and sent to a laboratory where the bleaching tray is made. The tray and the bleaching gel is then dispensed to the patient. The bleaching solution we use is usually 10% -20% carbamide peroxide. The patient is then instructed in detail regarding the procedure to be followed at home. If worn every night, it usually takes about 10-14 days to get the desired result.
The main advantage of this technique is that it can be done in your home, at your convenience. Since the bleaching gel is very mild, side effects are negligible, or limited to occasional sensitivity. The only drawback perhaps is the duration of the procedure.
2) "In-office" technique
In this technique, the bleaching gel is applied to the teeth and activated with a light. In our office we use the Brite Smile Tooth Whitening System where a cool blue light is directed onto teeth coated with a mild gel. To begin with, the teeth are cleaned and isolated to protect the gums from the bleaching gel. The gel is then applied to the teeth and they are treated to a special cool blue special. This is done in three cycles of twenty minutes each. The combination of the light and the gel works to produce a result which is visible in one hour. Hence the procedure is done at the clinic and under supervision.
The advantage of this procedure is that the results obtained are faster and more reliably. This technique is also more effective for teeth with persistent stains and localized spots or streaks. The side effects inclue a mild and transient sensitivity which last for 12 to 24 hours only.
Is tooth whitening safe?
Bleaching is a safe and effective way to whiten your teeth. Research has indicated that whitening teeth with carbamide peroxide is safe for the teeth and gums under the supervision of a dentist and the ADA has given it's approval on its use. The custom-fitted trays isolate the solution to the part of the teeth that need to be bleached and keeps contact with the gum tissues to a minimum.
Are there any side-effects?
Some people experience increased tooth sensitivity to cold during the treatment. Others have reported temporary discomfort, such as gum or tooth sensitivity. These symptoms ALWAYS disappear within 1-3 days after interruption or completion of the treatment.
How long will the result last?
Your teeth will always be lighter than they were. However, some patients may need periodic re-bleaching or "touch-up" treatments for one or two nights every six to twelve months. For patients who are heavy smokers or coffee drinkers, the results may not be as long-lasting.