Teeth Whitening: What to Know Before You Go
Cosmetic dentistry is the leading department in the dental world these days. And one of the most common procedures involving increasing the aesthetics is teeth whitening. If we’re being real, nobody likes having any stains or discoloration on their teeth. It can get embarrassing, and sometimes have ramifications on a person’s self-confidence. One of the easiest ways to solve this rather pesky problem is via teeth whitening treatment.
The U.S. Census data and Simmons National Consumer Survey shows that in 2018, about 40.5 million Americans purchased tooth whiteners. A 2015 American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry survey of dentists revealed that teeth whitening was the most frequently requested cosmetic procedure.
Why Would One Require Teeth Whitening Treatment?
One needs to understand that some form of discoloration/yellowing is absolutely normal, and depends on the structure of the tooth itself. The yellow tint that may be visible comes from dentin, the spongy structure cushioning the outer white material of the tooth (enamel). If physiologically, the enamel deposition is more, your teeth with look whiter. If not, it might have a yellow tint.
Of course, if a person feels like the discoloration has only gotten worse, and is unflattering, they can opt for teeth whitening procedures. But before we get into what whitening entails, let us take a quick glance at the kinds of stains that occur.
Stains on the teeth are one of two types – extrinsic, which are deposited on the surface of the tooth/teeth, and intrinsic, which occur in the interior of the tooth/teeth. Extrinsic stains are caused by smoking, chewing tobacco, drinking tea or coffee, etc. On the other hand, intrinsic stains happen due to aging, injury, or certain medications.
What Kind of Teeth Whitening Treatment Exist?
If we’re going to be talking about teeth whitening, we’re going to explain the basic difference between whitening and bleaching. Bleaching includes the use of Hydrogen Peroxide or Carbamide Peroxide. Alternatively, whitening can refer to any product that removes dirt from the teeth, including toothpaste.
While there are numerous over-the-counter whitening treatments available like toothpastes, strips, oral rinses, etc. there is a vast difference between those and professional treatments. To meet the growing demand for increased aesthetic, dentists offer two teeth-bleaching options – in-office sessions and custom take-home kits. Both can be used to treat extrinsic stains. Intrinsic stains, on the other hand, take longer to treat and involve using the take-home kits applied over a couple of months.
In-Office Teeth Whitening Procedure
- Professional whitening procedures start by your dentist thoroughly examining the oral cavity. Any cavities or gum disease issues are taken care of before initiating the treatment.
- Next, your dentist will take photographs to show you the before and after effect and the visible improvement due to said treatment.
- The dentist, or a dental hygienist proceeds to clean your teeth professionally (also known as scaling) to get rid of any plaque or calculus deposits. Certain extrinsic stains also get removed in the process. This is done to prevent it from hampering the bleaching process.
- A cheek retractor is applied and the dentist covers your gums with a liquid rubber dam or hardening resin to protect them.
- The next step involves applying the whitening agent on the teeth and it is left on for 15-30 minutes. Afterward, the gel is removed and re-applied for a little while longer. A UV light may be used to speed up the bleaching process.
- One appointment can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. While in-office sessions reflect almost immediate results, further appointments may be advised to receive the desired whitening result.
When it comes to bleaching a tooth that has undergone a root canal treatment (non-vital tooth), the procedure is slightly different than the one mentioned above. A whitening agent is placed inside the tooth and then covered up with a temporary filling. The whitening agent is removed after the desired shade of the tooth is achieved.
To take care of intrinsic stains and extensive discoloration, your dentist might give you a take-home bleaching kit to use.
- The dentist will take impressions of your upper and lower jaw and send the mold to the lab. The lab tech will then create custom mouth trays, which takes about two weeks.
- These trays are then handed to you along with a bleaching agent (which isn’t as strong as the in-office one to prevent any irritation). These trays are then to be placed in your mouth for up to an hour every day or how your dentist prescribes it to you.
Does Teeth Whitening Have Any Side Effects?
Prior to performing the teeth whitening treatment, your dentist will assess to see whether or not you are a candidate for the teeth whitening process. This involves taking a detailed medical history, and examining the teeth and oral structures. Expecting patients, patients with gingivitis, cavities, GERD, and already sensitive/tender teeth etc. are not recommended the whitening.
For everybody else, tooth bleaching is pretty safe. However, some patients feel sensitivity and/or pain in the teeth after the procedure. These subside within a day or two on their own. If it persists, your dentist might recommend a toothpaste to help with the sensitivity.
Over-the-Counter vs. Professional Treatment
With the easy and varied availability of over-the-counter treatments, one is truly spoiled for choice. However, OTC whitening treatments don’t work nearly as effectively as the one performed a skilled dental practitioner.
- Tooth whitening toothpastes are perhaps the most common treatment of choice. They contain chemical agents that remove stains and decrease yellowing more effectively than conventional toothpastes.
- Whitening strips and gels are more effective than toothpastes. These are applied on the teeth according to the instructions printed on the pack. The results may take a few days before becoming evident, and they usually last around three to four months.
However, it must be noted that even though these whitening agents don’t give the desired results immediately, they’re definitely more wallet friendly than a professional choice. Visit our dental office at Minneapolis Dental to speak to us and figure out what line of treatment works best for you to get the pearly whites of your dreams.