Flossing and brushing our teeth every day keeps the teeth bright, healthy and white. However, most of us feel like our smiles lack sparkle or are yellower than they should be. Many people share our concerns and orthodontics agree that more patients are requesting for tooth whitening.
Teeth whitening is one of the popular cosmetic procedures that involves removing discolouration and stains on teeth. This procedure is usually done over several touch-ups. Most dentists can perform it successfully.
Basically, teeth discolouration can be explained as follows. Most people begin with a set of beautiful white teeth. However, over the years, time has an effect on the outer part of the teeth, the enamel, and it thins exposing the yellowing dentine underneath. The enamel might also crack up allowing debris and dirt to get lodged within the cracks which brings about the unsightly color. Teeth whitening gets rid of the dirt and debris which exposes the cracks which are later filled up with dirt and debris. Saliva can re-mineralize some of the cracks as well.
Causes of teeth discoloration
There are numerous factors that have been found to cause teeth discoloration. These include;
Drinks and food
Tea, coffee, and red wine are major staining culprits. The drinks have intense color pigments known as chromogens that attach to the white enamel.
Tobacco has tar and nicotine which are responsible for creating stubborn stains. Nicotine is colorless and turns yellow when it mixes with oxygen. The mixture is responsible for the surface staining of the tooth.
Over time, the outer enamel layer becomes thinner with continuous brushing making the yellow dentin underneath the enamel to show.
Certain medications have tooth darkening side effects. For example, antipsychotics, antihistamines, and high blood pressure medications. Young children using antibiotics like doxycycline and tetracycline can experience teeth discoloration of their adult teeth when they get older. Chemotherapy, neck and head radiation also has teeth darkening side effects.
Other reasons why teeth change their natural white color are smoking, starting color, grinding, thinning and translucency, trauma, and drugs or chemicals.
How teeth whitening works
The process uses whitening products containing tooth bleaches like carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. The bleaches break down stains into smaller pieces making the color less concentrated and whitening your teeth or making it brighter.
However, the whitening does not work on all teeth. Therefore, experts advise that we talk to a dentist before we decide to whiten our teeth. Whiteners do not correct discolorations. For example, brown teeth may not respond well, and bleach may not have any affect at all on gray teeth. Whiteners do not work on veneers, caps, fillings or crowns.
What are the options
Expert advice that we talk to a dentist before starting. Three options exist that can make our teeth shine back and give us back that amazing smile.
Using whitening toothpaste
Typically, all toothpaste remove surface stains through mild abrasive action that scrubs the teeth. We should look for toothpaste with an ADA Seal. The toothpaste has special polishing agents and chemicals that provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, the ADA Seal products do not change the color of our teeth as they only remove surface stains.
At home bleaching
Peroxide-containing whiteners can bleach tooth enamel. The whiteners come in a gel and usually placed in a tray that fits our teeth. The bleaching agent concentration is lower than what the dentist uses in the office. For over the counter bleaching kits, experts advice that we discuss the options with our dentists. Consequently, find a bleaching kit bearing the ADA Seal of Acceptance. The seal means the kit is safe to use and effective.
Are there side effects of the whitening process?
It is important to note that as users we should expect to experience tooth sensitivity. Mostly, it happens when the peroxide present in the whitener penetrates the enamel to the soft layer of dentin. It can irritate the nerves of a young tooth.
However, the sensitivity is temporary. Consequently, we can delay the treatment then try again later. Overuse of the whiteners can cause damage to the enamel or gums. Therefore, it is important that we follow directions or talk to our dentist.