Teeth whitening is a dental procedure that helps to make the teeth appear whiter. Although this procedure may not make your teeth look brilliantly white, it helps to remove stains and make the color of the teeth appear lighter by several shades.
What It’s Used For
A tooth’s outer layer is known as the enamel. The color of the teeth is determined by the color of the enamel and the underlying dentin. The smoothness and thickness of the enamel is determined by your genes. Thinner enamel will allow more dentin color to show and vice versa. Additionally, having rougher or smoother enamel will affect light reflection and consequently, the teeth color. Each day, there is a thin coat (pellicle) forming on you tooth’s enamel that picks up stains. The enamel also has pores that hold the stains.
The following are common factors that can cause teeth to become yellow or stained:
- Drinking of dark colored beverages and liquids like coffee, tea, red wine, and cola.
- Smoking tobacco.
- Poor oral hygiene.
- Aging (the teeth get less bright with age because the enamel keeps thinning and the dentin becomes darker with time).
Stains can also be found inside your teeth. These stains are known as intrinsic stains. Intrinsic stains are usually caused by excessive exposure of developing teeth to fluoride. Other causes of intrinsic stains include the use of tetracycline antibiotics. If the antibiotics are taken by a mother during her pregnancy or taken by children who are eight years or younger, they may cause the child’s teeth to stain. The teeth of younger children are sensitive because they are still developing. Tooth whitening is more effective on extrinsic or surface stains than intrinsic stains.
Some dental problems may affect the effectiveness of teeth whitening procedures. Consider having your tooth cavities treated before going for a tooth whitening procedure. This helps to prevent the teeth whitening solution from passing through the decayed areas and reaching the inner parts of your tooth. If you have receded gums, the roots of your teeth will become exposed and appear yellow and discolored. Therefore, the whitening products may not work on them. It is important to know that teeth whitening has no effect on porcelain or ceramic veneers or crowns.
You can choose to have the whitening done at home or in a dental office. In the latter, the dentist may first photograph your teeth. This aids the dentist in monitoring the treatment progress. The dentist will conduct an examination of your teeth then ask you a few questions to establish the cause of the staining.
The next step involves cleaning of the teeth, which is often done by a dental hygienist or the dentist. The cleaning removes bacterial films, foods, and any substances on your teeth that have contributed to the staining. Once this process is complete, the teeth whitening procedure begins.
The home teeth whitening process involves the use of whitening trays and gel. The whitening gel is applied every day for a period of two to three weeks. There are also over the counter kits that are available for use at home. Some kits contain trays for holding the whitening gel while others have whitening strips for sticking to your teeth. Talk to a dentist before you use any home product. In addition, follow manufacturer’s instructions to the latter.
Teeth whitening involves the use of a tooth whitening product containing hydrogen peroxide. However, this procedure does not work well on teeth that had root canal treatment because the stains are inside the tooth. In such cases, dentists perform a different teeth whitening procedure that whitens the teeth from inside. The whitening agent is placed on the inside of the tooth after which a temporary filling is used to cover it for a few days. This process is done once, but it may be repeated until the tooth has the right shade.