Tooth whitening has been available for over 15 years, and has become more and more popular. Whitening treatments are used to improve the appearance of teeth, by removing stains. It should be noted that the natural colour of teeth will vary from person to person, and teeth will naturally darken with age.
There are two types of stains that cause teeth to discolour; external stains and internal stains. External stains are a result of the accumulation of surface stains caused by certain foods or drinks such as soy sauce, coffee, tea, red wine, as well as tobacco products. Internal stains can result from certain antibiotics, excessive fluoride in the water and dental trauma.
Tooth whiteners are of two different classes, surface whiteners and bleaching agents. Surface whiteners employ mild abrasives to remove surface stains. They are often found in products such as toothpastes or chewing gums. They will produce a mild effect on the appearance of the tooth.
Bleaching agents employ peroxide products to bleach the tooth. They work well on natural teeth, and results depend on the concentration and type of bleaching agent used. Certain discolourations however, will not respond to bleaching agents. Your dentist will help determine if this treatment approach is appropriate for r your teeth. It is important to note existing fillings and crowns will not change colour during whitening treatment. Sometimes such restorations need to be changed after teeth whitening to match the new lighter colour of the teeth.
Bleaching products are available over the counter or through your dentist. The primary difference is that over the counter products are much milder in concentration that those available through your dentist, hence results tend to be less noticeable.
Dentists employ primarily two types of bleaching products. The first involves fabrication of custom made trays for each jaw. These trays are filled with bleaching agents and worn for part of each day for usually 10-28 days. The second type of bleaching products give immediate results; they involve a single visit to your dentist during which your teeth are isolated, and a highly concentrated bleaching agent as well as light and/or heat is applied to your teeth. Such products have been featured on makeover shows that are abound on TV nowadays.
With any teeth whitening treatment, tooth sensitivity and soft tissue irritation may occur, but effects are transient.