Teeth whitening definition
Teeth whitening is a very common cosmetic dental procedure, the goal of which is to eliminate stains from teeth, allowing for a more attractive smile. As teeth turn yellow or get stained over time due to various reasons, whitening is often needed. The active ingredients most commonly used in whitening products are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide.
Whitening is often sought when a person becomes unsatisfied with the color of their teeth, which may usually stain over time. Teeth whitening can be achieved by changing the intrinsic or extrinsic color of the tooth enamel.
Extrinsic and intrinsic staining are the two main causes of teeth discoloration.
Staining caused by internal factors occurs during tooth development, either before we are born or during the early years of our childhood. This cannot be reversed with mechanical means. As the person gets older, their teeth may become yellow.
Some of the intrinsic sources of stains are mentioned below:
- Aging causes teeth to wear progressively because of the loss of enamel and dentine due to erosion. When enamel is compromised, the teeth can be easily stained.
- Tooth wear and aging: Tooth wear is a progressive loss of enamel and dentine, which is usually caused by erosion that takes its toll over the years.
- Dental caries: cavities make the teeth more vulnerable to discoloration as staining substances can easily enter the dentine.
- Dentinogenesis imperfecta: it is a genetic dentine defect where the tooth becomes discolored and turns blue, brown, and translucent.
- Tetracycline and minocycline: utilizing these antibiotics during the growing phase of the teeth can result in discoloration.
- Porphyria is a metabolic problem where porphyrins accumulate in teeth, giving them a purple stain.
- Broken teeth: Due to trauma, a broken tooth can change color unless treated immediately.
- Fluorosis: too much fluoride during the first years of life–when the enamel is growing–can lead to discoloration
- Root resorption: can cause a pink appearance on the enamel.
Extrinsic staining is mainly caused by outside factors such as the kind of foods and drinks consumed as well as tobacco and medications.
- Dental plaque: A thin bacterial layer, also known as biofilm, that forms along the gum line, which can become stained due to certain bacterial species. Dental plaque, in the long term, can lead to enamel demineralization and the formation of lesions.
- Calculus/Tartar: The plaque, when not removed, calcifies over time and turns into a hard layer along the gum line. The pigment of calculus may vary in colors and usually darkens as time passes.
- Tannins: present in tea, coffee, red wine that also stains teeth.
- Medications: chlorhexidine mouthwash is related to extrinsic staining.
- Tobacco: the black tar released from smoked tobacco can lead to a stain that varies from yellow to dark brown.
- Betel chewing: Red saliva is created after chewing it, which can cause a red to brown unsightly stain.
- Metals: Metals like copper, iron, iodine, and cadmium, which are utilized in various medications, are also responsible for staining.
- Foods, spices, and drinks, such as red beets, tomatoes, sodas, vinegar, curry, and soy sauce, are well known for staining teeth. So, always brush your teeth after taking them.
Teeth whitening Products and procedures
There are numerous teeth whitening products and systems out there, some of which can be easily obtained over-the-counter, such as toothpaste, gels, rinses, strips, and trays. Keep in mind though that the more powerful products can only be accessed at a dentist’s office.
Most importantly, whitening is only suitable for individuals who have healthy teeth and gums. People with Extrinsic stains in their teeth respond best.
Over-the-Counter tooth whitening
Most whitening toothpastes comprise mild polishing particles, which can help remove superficial stains. Some, however, contain both bleaching agents, such as peroxides and abrasives, to help eliminate both extrinsic and intrinsic stains.
Compared to a professional whitening session done at a dentist’s office, which can make the teeth 3 to 8 shades whiter, toothpaste can only make them one shade lighter.
Whitening mouthwashes generally contain hydrogen peroxide, which works by removing the stain. These mouthwashes can also help keep the breath fresh while also preventing the formation of plaque and gum disease.
Tray-Based Teeth Whiteners
Tray-based teeth whitening systems, which are bought either in a grocery store or obtained after a visit to the dentist, comprise a gel whitening solution that includes a peroxide bleaching agent. Directions for these tray-based systems must be followed carefully since improper use may cause severe teeth sensitivities. Sensitive teeth can lead to pain when exposed to cold or hot foods and drinks.
Compared to the products and methods mentioned above, baking soda is a much safer option for removing stains. Tooth whitening toothpaste that has highly abrasive particles is destructive to dental tissue, making baking soda an acceptable alternative.
Professional Methods of tooth whitening.
When you first go visit a dentist, they must first go over your health and dental history. The dentist must check for allergies and sensitivities, evaluate both hard and soft tissues, and the arrangement and conditions of previous dental work. In some cases, the dentist may do x-rays to rule out any hidden issues.
- Micro abrasions: dentists use instruments that radiate powder, water, and compressed air to remove biofilm and extrinsic staining.
- Lamps: Blue lights are used to facilitate and improve bleaching. After bleaching, it is recommended to avoid any foods or products with pigments that could stain the teeth. So, as much as you can, avoid smoking and drinking coffee and wine.
- Bleaching teeth that had their nerves removed require repetitive treatments where the bleaching products are sealed inside the teeth until the desired shade is reached.
- Dental prophylaxis: it comprises the removal of extrinsic staining using a slow-speed rotary handpiece and a rubber cup with abrasive paste.
Advantages of a professionally done bleaching:
- Can guarantee a more beautiful smile that can boost self-confidence.
- The dentist can build customized trays just for you, which guarantees that they fit you perfectly without irritating your gums.
- Over-the-counter bleaching strips are often too weak to get you the right shade that you desire, hence a professional procedure should be considered.
- While over-the-counter bleaching products might be inexpensive at first look, the outcomes are not that great.
Contraindications of tooth whitening
- Sensitivity to peroxide when dentine is cracked or exposed.
- When a client has very unrealistic expectations. Certain shades of white cannot always be achieved.
- Bleaching is not recommended for those with sensitive gums and defective dental work. Likewise, pregnant or breastfeeding women, children under age 16, and individuals with apparent white filling and crowns should also reconsider teeth whitening.
Tooth whitening risks
- Hypersensitivity: hydrogen peroxide can make the teeth more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures.
- Return to original color within one week after an office bleaching session.
- The weakening of enamel.
- Damaged dentine.
- Dental restorations are vulnerable to color change as ceramic crowns and dental amalgams may get damaged.
- Bleachorexia is a condition where one becomes addicted to teeth whitening.
- The first 48 hours after a whitening session are crucial as this is the time where the teeth are most porous. Make sure you only eat or drink non-staining foods.
- Regardless of how good the bleaching treatment was, most teeth regain some of the stainings back within a couple of months. However, this can be slowed with preventive steps.
- Always brush your teeth after every meal or at least wash your mouth with water after eating and drinking.
- Always floss as it will keep your gums healthy and your teeth free of plaque.
- If you must drink staining drinks, use a straw.
- Finally, you need to be prepared to repeat the procedure periodically unless you opt for a more permanent procedure, which would be the case with veneers, for example.
Have you had your teeth bleached lately? what products have you used? were you pleased with the results? Please share with us your experience in the comments area below!