March 15, 2019
Teeth whitening or bleaching is among the most popular areas of cosmetic dentistry. The procedure lightens teeth, removes stains and discoloration, and overall improves the appearance of teeth. Top dentists in California and around the U.S. perform tooth whitening, including us at Cunning Dental Group. The procedure is most effective on surface (extrinsic) stains.
Enamel is the outer layer of a tooth and dentin is the tissue forming the bulk of a tooth found beneath the enamel. The reflection and scattering of light off this opaque substance creates the color of natural teeth, combined with the color of the dentin. A person’s genetics play a significant role in affecting the smoothness and thickness of the enamel. Having thinner enamel allows the yellow color of the dentin to show through. Thick enamel also manipulates the reflection of light and, therefore, the color of teeth.
Every day, a thin coating called pellicle forms on the surface of teeth and collects stains. Tooth enamel also contains pores where stains can accumulate. The most common contributors to discolored teeth are:
In addition, it is possible to have stains inside the tooth (intrinsic stains). Excessive exposure to fluoride as a child, when teeth are developing, is a common cause of tooth discoloration. Other known reasons for darkened or stained teeth include treatment with radiation and chemotherapy, intake of certain medications, and trauma.
There are two principal types of whitening procedures: Vital whitening is for teeth that have live nerves. Non-vital whitening is for teeth that underwent root canal treatment and no longer have living nerves.
The most basic type of vital tooth whitening uses a gel — usually containing hydrogen peroxide — applied to the tooth surface. Whitening can be completed at a dentist’s office or a patient’s home.
In-office teeth whitening allows a dental expert to use a more potent whitening gel. A specialized light activates the gel and stimulates the bleaching process for faster results. In-office whitening often takes 30 to 90 minutes. It is, however, important to know that varying teeth stains respond differently to whitening treatments. A patient may need one or up to three appointments to achieve their desired result.
For in-home whitening, a dentist will take impressions of the upper and lower teeth, after which create a custom mouthpiece for a patient. A close fit allows the whitening agent to remain in contact with each tooth. We at Cunning Dental Group transform stained teeth to a brilliant white with ZOOM! Professional Whitening System. The advanced tooth whitening procedure is safe, effective, and fast with dramatic results showing in just over an hour.
Vital whitening may not enhance or change the appearance of any teeth that underwent root canal treatment because the stain originates from inside the tooth. If this is the case, a dentist will use a different method to whiten the tooth. He or she may place a whitening agent inside the tooth before covering it with a temporary filling. After several days, the tooth should appear whiter. Sometimes, a patient may need to repeat the procedure until the tooth is white enough to match the teeth around it.
Whitening is not a permanent solution to discolored or stained chompers. The stains will come back, especially if a person smokes or consumes dark-colored foods and drinks regularly. Avoiding the culprits behind staining may help expand the results of teeth whitening treatment for 6 to 12 months.
Whitening treatments are unlikely to cause serious side effects, although some people may experience teeth sensitivity and gum irritation for a short while. For example, whitening treatments can make a patient’s teeth extra sensitive if he or she has tooth decay or receding gums. The mouth must be cavity-free before receiving teeth bleaching treatments because the whitening solution can penetrate decaying areas and reach the inner parts of the tooth. If the gums have receded, the exposed roots of teeth may appear yellow or discolored. Whitening products cannot make them whiter.
As an added precaution, pregnant women should not have their teeth whitened even though the effect of whitening agents on fetal development is not understood. Whitening treatments also do not work on ceramic or porcelain crowns or veneers.
The option to buy whitening products over the counter is widely available. However, they contain weaker whitening agents compared to products from a professional dentist. Therefore, whitening may take longer. Most store-bought whitening agents are either applied as a gel placed in a mouthpiece or as a strip that sticks to teeth. Over-the-counter mouthpieces have a less secure fit than those custom-made by a dentist.
Knowing the potential side effects is the first step to safe teeth whitening. Tooth sensitivity often occurs at the beginning of a safe teeth-whitening regimen, and it normally subsides over time. The American Dental Association notes that the most reported side effects of dental whitening are tooth sensitivity and gum irritation, but such conditions are almost always temporary. In rare cases, severe tooth damage can happen regardless if a patient follows safe teeth-whitening procedures at home.
It is always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional (in this case a dentist) before using store-bought or home teeth whitening kits. While over-the-counter options may be safe for many people, there are several circumstances where it may not be appropriate for others to use them.
If you are uncertain about the condition of your teeth, visit Cunning Dental Group for professional advice about safe teeth-whitening options. Further, remember that even safe teeth-whitening products will not improve the appearance of tooth-colored fillings or bonding.
For more information about cosmetic dentistry or if you feel your teeth would benefit from Zoom! Professional Teeth Whitening System, call us at (855) 328-6646 or complete our online form to schedule your consultation.