Whitening Your Teeth: What You Should Know

Teeth whitening remains one of the most economical and conservative procedures available to enhance ones smile. Over a life time, teeth will get discolored for different reasons.

Internal tooth discoloration is caused by changes in the enamel of the tooth and the dentin. The main causes of internal tooth discoloration are exposure to high levels of fluoride, tetracycline, the use of antibiotics as a child, developmental disorders, tooth decay, restorations, root canal issues, and dental-related trauma.

External tooth discoloration is caused by factors outside the body, mainly foods and tobacco. The main causes of external tooth yellowing are smoking, foods with tannins, coffee, tea, and dark colored soda.

Hydrogen peroxide is considered the active whitening ingredient. It penetrates into tooth structure and breaks down into oxygen (O2) and water (H2O). The released oxygen oxidizes pigment molecules in enamel and dentin to produce the whitening effect. The result of whitening products is directly related to concentration and time exposed to the active product hydrogen peroxide.

Professional tooth whitening in a dental office is one way to achieve results. Due to the use of protective barriers, a higher concentration of peroxide can be applied. The rest of the mouth, including the gums, is protected from these materials. They are extremely effective, and can transform teeth in a single office visit. The major disadvantages are tooth sensitivity and cost.

Another option prescribed by dentists is the use of customized trays with a prescription agent that can be applied at home for a number of days. One of the major advantages is that sensitivity to the gums caused by the agent can be controlled by the fitting trays, and sensitivity to the teeth can be managed better by lower agent concentrations and by skipping days of treatment.

Commercially available tooth whitening systems have become popular, mainly because they’re relatively inexpensive and easy to use. They include whitening strips, paint-on tooth gel, mouth trays with gel, whitening toothpaste, and even whitening gum. It has been documented that adhesive whitening strips have comparable whitening efficacy with less contact time compared to 10 percent carbamide peroxide in a custom tray.

The most common downside of whitening treatments is tooth sensitivity. The actual whitening process, oxidation of organic pigments, may contribute to sensitivity via dehydration. Also it appears that penetration of peroxide through enamel and dentin and into the pulp during tooth whitening can cause nerve irritation. This so called pulpal irritation typically resolves within two weeks of terminating treatment. For treating whitening-induced tooth sensitivity it is recommended to reduce the frequency or duration of whitening applications.

Another effective approach is the use of over-the-counter “desensitizing” dentifrices containing 5 percent potassium nitrate. We recommend to use it as part of your regular toothbrushing twice daily 15 days prior starting treatment and ongoing during treatment.

Finally there is not such thing as the more whitening the brighter. Once color starts to disappear teeth can become translucent. Long term use of whitening treatment can give the appearance of a fluorescent bluish tone.The goal of whitening treatment is to enhance one smiles by restoring natural bright appearance, and nowadays the keyword is natural.

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