Tooth whitening is a procedure that lightens teeth and helps to remove stains and discoloration. Whitening is among the most popular cosmetic dental procedures because it can significantly improve the appearance of your teeth at much less cost and inconvenience than other techniques. The majority of dentists perform tooth whitening.
Every day, a thin coating forms on your teeth and it picks up stains. Also, the outer layer of each tooth, called the enamel, contains pores that can hold stains. Whitening is not a one-time solution. It will need to be repeated periodically if you want to maintain the brighter color.
What Its Used For
The most common reasons for yellowing or stained teeth are aging, tobacco, tea and coffee, which can stain the surface of the teeth.
It is also possible to have stains that are inside the tooth. These are called intrinsic stains. For example, intrinsic stains can be caused by exposure to too much fluoride as a child while teeth are developing. Other causes include tetracycline antibiotics taken during the second half of pregnancy or given to children 8 years old or younger when the teeth are still developing.
Tooth whitening is most effective on surface stains caused by age, foods or drinks.
Cavities need to be treated before teeth are whitened because the whitening solution can penetrate decay and reach inner areas of the tooth, which can cause sensitivity. Also, whitening will not work on exposed tooth roots, because roots do not have an enamel layer. Receding gums can cause roots to become exposed. Whitening also does not work on crowns or veneers.
Whitening can be done in the dental office or at home. For in-office whitening, your dentist probably will photograph your teeth, which will help him or her to monitor how the treatment is progressing. Whitening in the office may involve two to six visits of approximately 45 minutes each. He or she also will examine your teeth and ask you questions to determine the type and severity of staining.
When the examination is complete, the dentist or a dental hygienist will clean your teeth. Once this is completed, the whitening procedure begins.
For whitening at home, your dentist will direct you to use custom trays that are made in the dental office and fit your teeth precisely. Home whitening usually takes two to three weeks. Over-the-counter kits also are widely available for home use. You should talk to your dentist about using these products, and use them according to directions to avoid overuse and possible damage to your teeth and mouth.
How Its Done
There are two main types of whitening procedures. When whitening is done on a tooth that has had root-canal treatment and no longer has a live nerve, the process is called non-vital whitening. Vital whitening means that the procedure is being done on teeth that have live nerves.