Sparkling teeth not only are a sign of good health and dental hygiene, but also make a pretty picture, boosting the appearance and confidence levels of an individual. Keeping teeth clean and white however does require some effort as teeth tend to get discolored over time as they come in contact with a variety of food items and drinks; the colored ones leaving distinct stains at times. Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs too tend to affect the color of teeth depending on how often they are taken.
Teeth Whitening – Options
The color of teeth can be enhanced by 3 to 8 shades restoring it to near original, either by whitening kits or laser treatment. Opting for Whitening kits work out relatively cheaper when compared to laser treatment but the effect may not last for long.
Whitening kits typically are based on bleaching agents such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide in varying concentrations.
Teeth whitening can be done in different ways:
- At the Dentist’s clinic
Whitening formulations that are used by dentists at their clinics are more potent and need to be applied by professionals. As these contain a higher percentage of bleaching agents they are capable of whitening teeth within a short time and must be left on just for the right amount of time so that they do not damage teeth or gums. Whitening treatment at the clinic usually takes about a couple of hours.
- At home using whitening kits prescribed by a dentists
Dentists may also prescribe or dispense whitening agents/kits for home use.
- At home using whitening products available over the counter
Whitening kits designed for self-care however contain lesser levels of bleaching chemicals and are often intended for overnight usage. These are available over the counter just like other dental care products.
The concentration of the bleaching substance and duration for which it is applied determine the color/shade of the treated teeth.
Teeth Whitening – Typical Process
Teeth Whitening typically involves having a dental tray filled with bleaching gel fitted snugly over the teeth for a fixed amount of time. The chemicals dissolve or eat up the stains and plaque (and some enamel too and hence the sensitivity!) and also whiten teeth during the process.
When treated at a clinic, ultra violet rays or laser may be used to activate the chemicals in the whitening gel to speed up the process. Light induced treatments also address other dental problems apart from ridding teeth of stains and discoloration.
Teeth Whitening – Effectiveness
There are few cosmetic alternatives to well-maintained natural teeth. It is important to understand that the color of natural teeth may not be always sparkling white and tends to vary in shades from one person to another.
Irrespective of laser or UV light whitening routines or application of whitening gels, the color of teeth may improve only by a few degrees, and in some cases lighten any stains on the enamel. Whitening is often more effective on yellow teeth, whereas stubborn stains and plaque caused over years will need several rounds of treatment before any changes are visible.
Treatments at the dentist’s clinic are likely to be more effective as they are customized to specific needs and dental conditions, but professional services will cost more. The effectiveness of teeth whitening also largely depends on how well the dental tray covers the surface of teeth. Whitening kits brought at the store may not always come with dental trays that are suitable for everyone. Getting a custom-fit dental tray designed by a dentist often ensures better results and hence the extra costs!
It’s worth noting that whitening does not permanently bleach teeth. It is only a matter of time before discoloration sets in again. Cutting down on intake of colored food items, wine, and other edibles that stain tooth enamel and following a strict dental care routine can delay the next visit to the dentist.
Yet another point to remember is that whitening techniques do not change the color of veneers, crowns, caps and other dental accessories made of ceramic or composite materials. People who have undergone dental procedures for implants, root canal treatment, dental fillings and other restorative processes must consult their dentists before opting to whiten teeth.
Teeth Whitening – Common Side Effects
Teeth Whitening is generally safe, especially when overseen by a professional dentist. There are, however, few side effects that are commonly experienced when teeth are exposed to bleaching agents.
Teeth tend to become sensitive after the treatment. The degree of sensitivity tends to vary from one person to another. Gums problems too are common.
Teeth Whitening – Is it Right For You?
Almost all of us experience different degrees of teeth discoloration. The type and extent of stains determine the kind of whitening treatment required to remove or lighten the stains.
Most stains caused by food, alcohol or tobacco are superficial and tend to be limited to the tooth enamel. Regular use of whitening toothpaste can help remove such stains.
If stains do not disappear on using whitening toothpaste, whitening kits designed for home use are likely to come in handy. If stains still persist, a visit to the dentist may be required.
However if teeth are damaged or cracked, stains can get deeper. Also other health conditions, prolonged medications or age related factors tend to result in intrinsic / deep discoloration, and such cases require professional treatment from reputed qualified dentists.
People who have sensitive teeth or gums, or any other dental problems must first consult their dentists before using teeth whitening products available over the counter. Last, but not the least, we’ve already noted that teeth whitening sessions supervised by a Dentist are costly, more so if laser or UV treatment is opted for. Multiple visits may be needed to obtain the desired results and maintain them over time.