Teeth Whitening: Is It The Right Decision?

Overview

Tooth whitening has become very popular among people and is one of the most frequently requested dental procedures by the public. People have come to desire whiter, more perfect smiles and in response, many choices for teeth whitening have been made available.

These include home-based products such as toothpaste, gels, and films, along with in-office treatment methods done by dental specialists, where they use products containing highly concentrated bleaching agents to lighten the existing shade of the natural teeth.

 But does teeth whitening work and is it safe?

What Is Teeth Whitening?

The procedure of teeth whitening consists of bleaching your teeth to make the shade of your teeth lighter. While teeth whitening can’t make your teeth completely white, it can lighten the natural existing color by several shades.

Teeth whitening is considered to be a very effective way of brightening the existing color of the teeth without removing any surfaces from the tooth itself. It cannot change the color completely and make them brilliant white, but it can lighten the existing shade.

Teeth whitening procedures are can be done at a dental office by a professional dentist, however, there are several home teeth whitening kits available to buy over the counter. Naturally, the risks for these home kits are higher.

That is why professional teeth whitening methods have gained immense popularity, by those who either have not seen significant results with home kits or just don’t trust the process of over the counter (OTC) products. Besides, dental office teeth whitening delivers results in a relatively shorter amount of time.

What Happens During A Professional Teeth Whitening?

If you choose to get your teeth whitened professionally, keep in mind that you will need to visit the dental office for a few appointments.

In-office teeth whitening is not an altogether complicated procedure, however, it requires skilled professionals to avoid any possible injuries to the gum (gingival) area. Additionally, your dentist may need expensive professional equipment to prepare and finish the procedure.

In-office professional teeth whitening procedure can take anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes to complete.

A typical teeth whitening procedure consists of various steps:

  • Before beginning, your dentist will evaluate and make a record of the existing color shade of your teeth.
  • They will then polish your teeth with an abrasive grainy material – called pumice –  to remove and clean any existing plaque on the surface.
  • Your dentist will isolate your teeth with gauze to keep them dry and will use retractors to keep your cheeks, tongue, and lips from contacting the whitening solution.
  • Next, a barrier may be placed along your gum line to protect it from further exposure to the solution.
  • Later, your dentist will use a bleaching agent to coat only the front surface of your teeth. The whitening solutions usually used are either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.
  • Once the solution is applied, curing lights or lasers are required to activate the peroxide in the bleaching agent.
  • After the application, the solution will be left on the teeth for 30 to 60 minutes. Depending on the brand, your dentist may need to reapply the solution occasionally.
  • Once your dentist determines that the desired shade has been reached, they will rinse your teeth.
  • If you have any tooth sensitivity – which is a very common side effect after teeth whitening – a fluoride application may be used to soothe it.
  • After the first appointment, you may discuss additional visits with your dentist, to reach the optimum color shade you desire.

After the procedure, your doctor will recommend you to avoid foods or drinks that have a high level of pigment for at least 24 hours. Coffee, tea, red wine, any tomato product like sauce or juice, yellow mustard, black grapes, are examples of these that should be avoided.

You will also be advised to avoid any smoking or tobacco use.

Another method of teeth whitening a dentist can offer is laser whitening (power whitening), and can take about an hour.

For this procedure, your dentist will apply a bleaching product on your teeth and use a laser or a light to activate the whitening.

What Are The Risks Of Teeth Whitening?

Regardless of what treatment you choose for your teeth whitening, there’s still the risk your gums will be sensitive to the chemical compounds used in the procedure, especially if you already have rather sensitive and delicate teeth.

There are additional risks of burns to gums and a portion of the home whitening kits can harm the enamel of the tooth.

Tooth sensitivity is usually experienced as a wave of pain as a reaction to cold air or water. If you already have sensitive teeth, you may want to re-think the decision of professional teeth whitening procedures. However, there are approaches to be done to help you cope with this issue and still be able to whiten your teeth to your desire.

The specific reason for tooth sensitivity from teeth whitening is still unknown, but it is proven that the properties of peroxide — the main material in most teeth whitening products — can irritate the nerve of the tooth.

This irritation or inflammation causes symptoms such as sensitivity to cold, and a tingling sensation.

 

How To Prepare

Don’t hesitate to ask basic inquiries about your options of teeth whitening treatments accessible, the results you can expect, and whether the procedure can be effective for a specific time.

You can also discuss with your dental specialist about potential side effects or risks the procedure poses, including tooth sensitivity.

You can always talk with people who have had similar treatments done, and can ask another dental specialist for a second opinion before you decide on any specific treatments.

Are You A Candidate For The Procedure?

Teeth whitening may not be the right procedure for everyone. If you have dental and gum disease, or crowns, your dental specialist may advise you against teeth whitening.

 

Tips

Tooth sensitivity is very common after whitening procedures but generally last between 24 to 48 hours.

You can try these tips if any sensitivity occurs while whitening your teeth at home. If you develop sensitivity after a professional procedure, ask your doctor for instructions, and feel free to try some of these techniques, but make sure that they align with the general recommendation your dentist has given.

  1. Remember to read the instructions and guidelines of the at-home whitening kits, and follow your dentist recommendations if you have your teeth professionally whitened. Never whiten your teeth for longer than it is advised because results will most probably have a reverse effect and hurt the enamel of your teeth.
  2. Allow yourself to have short breaks between treatments, to help with inflammation symptoms.
  3. You can take Advil before the whitening treatment to reduce sensitivity. 
  4. Different products have different peroxide levels. High levels of peroxide are not always worthwhile for people with high teeth sensitivity. You can check for lower peroxide rates ( 6 to 10%) in your products, to decrease the chances of sensitivity symptoms.
  5. Limit or avoid cold foods and beverages during your whitening treatment. Teeth are usually sensitive to temperatures as is, but whitening can further inflame them and bring about sensitivity issues.
  6. Don’t overuse whitening products. Apart from sensitivity, excessive use of these products can even damage your teeth.
  7. You can use kinds of toothpaste specially made for sensitive teeth. Fluoride rinses can also help soothe symptoms and can be recommended for use either before, during, or after the whitening procedure.
  8. Remember to use brushes that have soft bristles on them and are gentler on your teeth and gums. These brushes can help lower your sensitivity.
  9. Some desensitizing products have been known to show results in reducing symptoms of sensitivity and can be applied in your dentist’s clinic. Ask your doctor if they are appropriate for you.

With modern products and improvement of techniques, there are no longer harsh ingredients damaging your teeth or causing excessive sensitivity symptoms, and the materials used are gentler on the teeth.

Alternatives

Professional At-Home Teeth Whitening Kits

Professional teeth whitening treatments can be costlier for some people, therefore, as an alternative, many individuals choose to use at-home whitening kits. These kits are offered by dentists and require dental records and impressions to make custom-made trays for your teeth.

Typically, the custom-fitted trays can take anywhere between 1 to 2 weeks to be made. The procedure is rather easy and will take around an hour a day over 2 weeks to be performed.

The results of these home-kits are far better than over-the-counter product results and while not inexpensive, can still be suitable alternatives for people who can’t afford professional procedures or don’t have full-cover dental insurance.

Risks Of At-Home Treatments

At-home kit mouthguards can sometimes not fit properly and therefore cause the bleaching gel to leak on your gums and into the mouth. This can cause sensitivity and even blistering.

Also, some home kits don’t contain enough whitening ingredients to give desired results, and can sometimes be money down the drain. 

Sometimes, teeth whitening treatments are performed in beauty parlors by untrained staff and no dental qualifications. In addition to being illegal, this can put you and your oral health at risk.

Teeth Whitening Toothpastes

While toothpaste cannot bleach your teeth, there are certain kinds of whitening toothpaste that have additional whitening agents and chemicals that are more effective than regular toothpaste and can combat food and drink stains better.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Teeth Whitening Permanent?

Teeth whitening isn’t permanent. It can last from a few months to up to 3 years – it varies from person to person.

The use of tobacco, red wine, tea, or coffee, which all stain your teeth, will reduce the time in which your teeth remain white after the procedure.

Will Teeth Whitening Work On False Teeth?

If you have veneers, dentures, or crowns fillings, teeth whitening will not work on those parts of your teeth. If you choose to go ahead with teeth whitening, you may need to replace the pre-existing dental work to match with the new color shade result of your natural teeth, that was done by the whitening procedure.

Can Teeth Whitening Damage My Tooth’s Nerve?

There has been no reported evidence to date suggesting a harmful effect on the nerve of a tooth. It was reported in a study, that after a 7-year follow-up of patients who have had teeth whitening procedures, there was no evidence of nerve damage and no individual needed a root canal procedure on any teeth that had been whitened.

Is The Agent Used In Tooth Whitening Toxic?

While the products used in teeth whitening procedures ( developed from carbamide peroxide, hydrogen peroxide, and urea) are all substances that are found in human cells, excessive use and abuse of these products can be harmful and is never recommended, and should be utilized with caution.

If you are still unsure, ask your dentist to recommend a teeth whitening treatment for you.

You can check out our other dental treatments here.

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