Teeth Whitening: A Key Way to Undo Years of Surface Stains
There is perhaps no cosmetic dental service more popular among average consumers than teeth whitening or bleaching. This process has become increasingly common in recent years, largely driven by a desire to have purely white teeth that look untouched by the likes of coffee, wine, and other substances that can stain teeth over time. A bright white smile also perceived to be a key indicator of dental health by many people, helping them in both personal and professional pursuits.Before requesting a teeth whitening procedure, though, consumers need to know exactly what the process involved, how it works, and how the most common misconceptions about teeth whitening can be dispelled. With a bit of research beforehand, the whitening process can be relaxing and exciting once it gets underway.
How to Whiten Teeth: Say Hello to Hydrogen Peroxide and Halogen Lightning
Teeth whitening can generally be split into two types of treatments, based entirely on where those treatments occur. The first is a home treatment, performed with products sold over the counter at most major supermarkets and chain stores. These products use whitening strips and gels to reduce the yellowing of the teeth without a trip to the dentist. While certainly convenient and affordable, their results are mixed and hard to predict. They’re often considered second to in-office whitening services that have much more success for a wider range of consumers.
In-office whitening services typically combine a hydrogen peroxide gel with hydrogen lighting that actually enhances the speed and effectiveness of the whitening process. Hydrogen peroxide itself is the key ingredient in both in-office and at-home treatments, though it is often offered in stronger concentrations at a dentist’s office.
Before the whitening process begins, the dentist overseeing it will choose the right level of hydrogen peroxide intensity for each customer’s teeth. This varies based on the amount of yellowing that has occurred, with each concentration of peroxide matched with a lighter or darker shade of teeth.
With the proper level of hydrogen peroxide chosen for the procedure, the dental whitening gel will be applied to the teeth; it is typically then encased in a clear mouth guard, though this may not always be the case depending on the nature of the treatment. For the next five to fifteen minutes, the dentist will shine a bright hydrogen light on the peroxide gel, helping to accelerate its effects and enhance the whiteness that it produces. A slight amount of heat may be felt while this blue-tinged light shines on the teeth, though many newer systems have no noticeable heat effect at all.
From start to finish, the average teeth whitening procedure lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to a full hour. The duration of each procedure varies based on the type of whitening being done, the amount of whitening desired, and any special accommodations that dentists may have to make for teeth that have been subject to a root canal or other procedures that may make their stains more persistent.
Winning the Battle: Five Enemies of White Teeth That Should Be Avoided
- 1: Acne Medications that Use Tetracycline
- For years, dermatologists have prescribed medications based on tetracycline to treat serious cases of acne. The medication is actually quite effective at doing this, but one of its main side effects is the yellowing of the teeth. While that might be bad enough, it is often the case that tetracycline dental staining requires special accommodations made by the dentist during whitening, as this type of staining goes below the surface of the tooth itself.
- 2: Coffee
- It might be a key part of the modern morning routine, but coffee is not a friend to white teeth. In fact, coffee is one of the key things that can stain the surface of teeth over the course of a person’s life. For proof, try brushing the teeth immediately after finishing a cup of coffee. Though the teeth don’t appear to be stained, toothpaste will turn brown. Consider a different morning beverage to maintain white teeth.
- 3: Smoking
It’s long been known that smoking can cause serious damage to the teeth, and yellowing is probably the least serious type of this damage. Even so, it bears mentioning that even an “occasional” smoking habit can yellow the teeth and lead to significant surface staining.
- 4: High-Tannin Foods and Beverages
- A glass of red wine each day can produce numerous healthy benefits, but it can also stain the teeth. Foods that are high in tannins, as red wine is, can stain teeth on the surface and give them a darker ivory appearance than they would normally have.
- 5: Colored Sodas
- Brown carbonated beverages, like Coke and Pepsi, are the biggest perpetrators of surface staining. They also contribute a great deal to tooth decay and the breakdown of enamel, so it’s a good idea to avoid these drinks altogether for good, long-term dental health.
Three Important Misconceptions About Teeth Whitening
As with any popular procedure, there are a number of misconceptions that sometimes scare consumers away from the whitening process. These misconceptions can be easily debunked, however, with just a bit of careful research. Among the misconceptions currently making the rounds, three stand out as the easiest to disprove.
- 1. Whitening Will Bleach the Whole Mouth
- There is a common perception among consumers that a whitening procedure will also bleach veneers, fillings, crowns, and other dental work that has been done previously. This is not true. Only the actual teeth will be whitened; all other dental work will remain the exact same color that it was before the procedure began. To ensure that teeth “match” the other dental work that has been done after a whitening process, only an in-office procedure should be used.
- 2. The Chemicals Used are Dangerous
- The primary chemical used in teeth whitening is carbamide peroxide, which breaks down in the mouth to become hydrogen peroxide during whitening. This is not an abrasive or toxic chemical, and it is certainly not dangerous to consumers pursuing whiter teeth.
- 3. Whitened Teeth Will Be White Forever
- This is definitely not true. Even the most professional services can’t compensate for future yellowing of the teeth. With careful maintenance and an understanding of what causes tooth staining, though, it is easy to ensure that a whitening procedure lasts very long. Permanence, though, is simply not possible at this time.
A Great Procedure for Consumers of All Types
Whether it’s to combat years of coffee drinking, or the damaging effects of cigarette smoking and soda consumption, the teeth whitening process is a perfect solution for all types of consumers. In the end, the result will be a healthier smile and a greater feeling of self-confidence, and no one can argue with those results.