Teeth whitening has become a popular part of cosmetic dentistry, and is easy to do! Thinking about getting your teeth whitened? What is it like getting your tooth bleached? Ever wonder what exactly it is? How and why does it work?
A tooth has essentially three layers: enamel, dentin, and pulp. Enamel is the hard outer layer, dentin is the softer inner layer of the tooth, and the pulp is where the nerve and live tissues are. Children's teeth (baby teeth) are naturally white when they first erupt. Over time, as people age and permanent teeth erupt, teeth become less porous and the teeth appear darker and stained.
FOODS THAT CAUSE DARK AND GREY STAINSFoods and drinks such as tea, wine, soy sauce, coffee, blueberries, and betel nuts can cause dark and yellow stains within the enamel of the teeth. Over time, the stains can penetrate the enamel layer and the dentinal tubules, causing teeth to appear grey, dark, and yellow. Other products than can also cause teeth staining include coke, certain antibiotics like tetracycline, and excessive fluoride.
HOW TEETH WHITENING WORKSBleaching products use hydrogen peroxide that interacts with water to form carbamide peroxide. The peroxide travels within the enamel tubules to the dentin, breaking down the stains in the enamel and dentin. Teeth thus appear to be whiter and brighter as the stains are dissolved and the enamel and dentin are more porous in the process.
TEETH WHITENING WITH STORE PRODUCTSIn the store, one can purchase whitening toothpastes, paint-on gels, and whitening mouthwashes. These products may contain a mild abrasive that remove very mild extrinsic surface stains. Some companies such as Crest sell whitening strips, which can help remove mild to moderate dark stains. Most of these products contain very little hydrogen peroxide and have not been tested, so such whitening effects may not be as effective.
IN-OFFCE TEETH BLEACHING
- The dentist can fabricate custom whitening trays for one to do tooth whitening at home. Once molds of teeth are taken and trays are made, one places a hydrogen peroxide gel within the custom trays. The trays are worn over a period of two to three weeks.
- Some dentists also offer same day bleaching. A high concentration of carbamide peroxide gel up to 40% is placed on the teeth for a duration of 25-30 minutes and repeated two to three times. This method is effective against moderate to heavily stained teeth due to the gel concentration, and usually takes a single 90 minute session.
TEETH WHITENING SIDE EFFECTSDental bleaching is relatively safe but as with any dental procedure there are side effects. Tooth whitening side effects include minor cold/hot tooth sensitivity, gums irritation from the hydrogen peroxide gel, and lingering tooth sensitivity to cold.
Interested in teeth whitening? Be sure to consult with your family dentist. Tooth bleaching can be a regular part of your regular dental care; you and your dentist can discuss which whitening method may be appropriate.
From your gentle family dentist in Bellevue,
Dr. Peter Chien