Teeth whitening, also known as teeth bleaching, is a common procedure in general dentistry, but most especially in the field of cosmetic dentistry. It is generally accepted that white teeth are an attractive feature of a smile. The bleaching procedure is ideal for patients who have healthy, unrestored teeth and healthy gums, but it is not recommended or will be less successful when other problems are involved, like gum diseases or fillings.
As a person ages the adult teeth often become darker. This darkening is due to changes in the mineral structure of the tooth, as the enamel (the hardest substance in your body) becomes less porous. Teeth can also become stained by bacterial pigments, foodstuffs and tobacco. And because white teeth are subconsciously associated with youth, the bleaching procedures have become very popular in the past decade. Teeth whitening methods used in cosmetic dentistry are definitely excellent, non-invasive techniques to whiten your smile.
Almost anyone whose permanent teeth have come in can qualify for whitening his teeth. There are many whitening procedures to consider starting with the whitening toothpastes and bleaching kits that anyone can afford, and continuing with sophisticated methods in cosmetic dentistry like laser bleaching procedures and expensive in-office whitening sessions.
Cosmetic dentistry uses two main methods for teeth whitening. The first one involves applying a high concentration of oxidizing agent for a short period of time, which is the so-called “office bleach” or “power bleaching”. The alternative method involves using a thin mouth guard or strip to hold a low concentration of oxidizing agent next to the teeth for as long as several hours a day for a period of 5 to 14 days. This is known as “take-home” or “over-the-counter bleaching”.
As a relatively new procedure in cosmetic dentistry, “laser bleaching” is a variation of the above in-office power bleaching method. The difference is that “laser bleaching” uses an argon laser to activate the bleaching agent instead of the usual light source used in traditional in-office procedures. Very good aesthetics can be obtained by using veneers, which are thin layers of restorative material placed over a tooth surface, either to improve the aesthetics of a tooth, or to protect a damaged tooth surface. They are an option for closing gaps or disguising discolored teeth that did not respond well to whitening procedures.
If you decide that cosmetic dentistry is the right choice for both yourself and your family, remember that you should ask your dentist which whitening technique is best for you, and also try not to expect overnight miracles. Teeth that are yellow respond best to bleaching. Brown or gray teeth, or teeth striped or mottled from tetracycline or too much fluoride, may not whiten evenly when bleached. People with periodontal disease or particularly sensitive teeth may want to avoid chemical whitening techniques that can irritate tender gums and they may want to investigate other options, like veneers or bonding with their dentist. Cavities need to be treated before teeth are whitened. Also, teeth whitening will not work on exposed tooth roots, receding gums, crowns or veneers.
As for the risks, teeth whitening is unlikely to cause serious side effects, although some people’s teeth may become more sensitive temporarily. Time has proven that the bleaching methods used in cosmetic dentistry are both safe and effective. Nevertheless improving the mouth appearance should not take place if the patient is a pregnant woman because the effect of the whitening materials on the development of the fetus is not known, and it is recommended to postpone the whitening procedure until after delivery.
Over time, exposure to foods, drinks (especially coffee, tea, colas and red wine) and tobacco will gradually darken your newly whitened teeth. But there are steps you can take to maintain them. For instance you should use whitening toothpaste to remove surface stains and prevent yellowing; remember to rush or rinse immediately after consuming stain-causing beverages or foods. Use a straw to drink beverages that stain, such as coffee, tea, colas and red wine. Also you should check whether you need a touch up. Depending upon the teeth whitening method you used, you may need a touch up in six months or after a year or two. If you smoke or drink a lot of coffee, you may need a touch up more often.
Teeth whitening is the most common cosmetic service provided by cosmetic dentistry and you should not be afraid to give it a try. Don’t forget to ask your dentist for more information about your available options as well as other procedures that could really improve both your look and your life in general!