A whiter, brighter smile is beautiful – it can help you feel better about yourself and make a memorable impression. Extensive research and clinical studies indicate that whitening teeth under the supervision of a dentist is safe. In fact, many dentists consider whitening the safest cosmetic dental procedure available.
A child’s baby teeth are generally whiter than the adult teeth that follow. As a person ages, the adult teeth often become stained with foodstuff, tea, coffee, red wine, and tobacco. As with any tooth whitening product, it is not recommended for children under 13 years of age and pregnant or lactating women.
Oxidizing gels such as carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide are used to lighten the shade of the tooth. The gel penetrates the porosities of the outer teeth surface called enamel and oxidizes stain deposits. Laser bleaching uses light energy to accelerate the process of bleaching in a dental office.
The effects of teeth bleaching can last for several months but may vary depending on the lifestyle and diet of the patient. Factors that decrease whitening include smoking and the ingestion of dark-colored liquids like coffee, tea, cola, and red wine.
There are two main methods of gel bleaching: one performed with a high-concentration bleaching gel, and another with a low-concentration bleaching gel. High-concentration bleaching method is performed at a dental office and the moderates to low-concentration bleaching gel method is available over the counter. Performing the high-concentration method also called “take-home teeth whitening” at home is accomplished using prescribed high-concentration carbamide peroxide. This method is performed by applying a high concentration of oxidizing gel to the teeth with thin plastic trays for a short period of time, which produces quick results. The application trays ideally should be custom-made to retain the bleaching gel, ensuring even and full tooth exposure to the gel. Custom-made bleaching trays will typically stay on the teeth for about 20 – 30 minutes. Trays are then removed and the procedure is repeated up to two more times that day. The gel is usually carbamide peroxide, which breaks down in the mouth to form hydrogen peroxide. The gel typically contains between 15% and 44% carbamide peroxide.
Low-concentration over-the-counter whitening is far less effective. Low-concentration whitening mostly involves purchasing a thin mouthguard or strip that holds a relatively low concentration of oxidizing gel next to the teeth for as long as several hours a day for a period of 14 days. Results can vary, depending on which application is chosen, with some people achieving whiter teeth in several weeks, and others seeing very little results or no results at all. Occasionally, dentists, as well as some dental laboratories, can fabricate custom-made whitening trays that will greatly improve the results achieved with an over-the-counter method.
A typical course of teeth whitening can produce dramatic improvements in the cosmetic appearance of most stained teeth; however, few stains respond poorly to whitening. Tetracycline staining may require prolonged exposure to the gel. Teeth white-spot decalcifications may also be highlighted and become more noticeable directly following a teeth whitening process, but usually calm back down with the other parts of the teeth becoming whiter. Teeth white spots become less noticeable, with the other parts of the teeth becoming whiter.