Is Professional Teeth Whitening Right for You?
Performed either in a dental office or from home using custom-fitted trays made in a dental lab, professional teeth whitening is a popular solution for enhancing a person's smile. While the cost of professional bleaching is more expensive than purchasing over-the-counter products, this treatment often provides faster, more dramatic results.
In fact, some patients may even see teeth get up to seven or eight shades lighter. However, teeth bleaching is not an option for everyone, and some people may need to look into other restorative choices to achieve a brighter smile.
Types of stains that respond to teeth whitening
In general, professional teeth whitening is effective when used to treat yellow stains on the surface of the tooth. Tooth discoloration can be divided into several categories, including extrinsic and intrinsic stains.
Extrinsic stains exist on the tooth’s enamel and are most often caused by consuming certain foods and drinks, such as coffee, tea, tomato sauce, wine, or soda. Tobacco products can also cause stains to build on the outer layer of the teeth. While normal teeth brushing and dental cleanings cannot effectively remove the stains caused by these substances once they set, bleaching treatments are often successful.
Some causes of discoloration, such as tooth trauma, medication, excessive fluoride exposure, and even genetics, are located on the tooth’s dentin. This inner layer of the tooth may cause discoloration if it is darker than the enamel. Unfortunately, bleaching products are often not effective at addressing intrinsic stains, and the patient may want to consider other restorative options, such as veneers, dental bonding, or crowns.
Brown, blue, and gray discoloration
It is possible for teeth to have brown, gray, or even blue discoloration. Brown stains can appear due to heavy tobacco use or tooth decay. While bleaching may help lighten brown teeth, one treatment session may not be enough to achieve the desired results.
Some people may have teeth that have a natural blue or gray tint, or the antibiotic tetracycline may be to blame. Additionally, single or multiple teeth may start to become a grayish-blue color over time due to aging. These stains often do not respond to professional teeth whitening.
How a dentist decides whether teeth whitening will be effective
Before going through with professional teeth whitening, the patient needs to see a dentist for an examination and evaluation. The dentist will check to make sure the patient has healthy gums and teeth. Any signs of gum disease or tooth decay need to be addressed before bleach can be applied to the teeth.
Additionally, people with a receding gum line or extra sensitive gums may experience discomfort or pain during the treatment. If the patient has crowns, fillings or other restorations on the front teeth, they will not be affected by the bleach and can appear duller than the surrounding natural teeth.
Frequently asked questions
Although professional teeth whitening is one of the most common cosmetic dental procedures, people may still have questions about the option. These are some of the common inquiries.
What does the in-office whitening procedure entail?
The results are better when whitening occurs on clean teeth, so if it has been a while since the patient's last cleaning, this will occur first. Next, the dentist will work with the patient to determine the desired shade of the end result.
The dentist will place retractors in the patient's mouth to keep the lips and tongue away from the whitening solution. Next, the dentist applies a gel to the gumline to protect the gum tissue. The dentist then applies the bleaching agent to the front of the teeth and activates it with a light. This stays on for around 15 minutes, and then the whitening agent is removed. These steps are repeated until the desired shade is reached. Most visits take around an hour.
How long do results last?
The length of the results varies based on certain factors. However, most people's teeth remain white for at least a year.
Is there anything I can do to keep them white for longer?
The key for long-lasting results is to limit stain-causing food and drinks. These include red wine, coffee, tea, sodas, berries, and grape juice. Smoking should also be avoided, and regular brushing and flossing should continue.
For patients with good oral hygiene and natural teeth free of any restorative work, professional teeth whitening usually is successful in removing yellow stains. Always consult a dentist before beginning any bleaching treatment to make sure the procedure is appropriate for the circumstances.
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