Tooth whitening can be a highly effective, yet very simple way, of lightening the colour of teeth without removing any of the tooth surface. It cannot make a colour change, but lightens the existing colour. In a live tooth the dentist applies the whitening product using a specially made tray which fits into the mouth like a gum shield. The chemical is then activated using heat, or heat and light combined. The active ingredient in the product is normally hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.
If the tooth has been root treated, the canal, which previously contained the nerve, may be reopened and the whitening product is put in. This is known as internal bleaching.
Before a patient is booked for whitening a thorough examination is carried out to check the state of teeth and gums. They need to be optimized to avoid any unwanted after effects. Some patients may experience sensitivity. Your dentist will require any specific treatment needs after evaluation .
First of all you will need 2 or 3 visits to your dentist. Your dentist will need to make a mouth guard and will need to take impressions for this at the first appointment. Once your dentist has started the treatment, you must continue the treatment at home. This will mean applying the bleach regularly over 2-4 weeks for 30 minutes to 1 hour at a time.
Over-the-counter kits are not recommended as they contain only a small amount of hydrogen peroxide which makes the product less effective. Some also contain mild acids, while others are abrasive. Although these products are cheaper, whitening is a complicated treatment procedure and should only be carried out by a dentist after a thorough examination and assessment of your teeth. It is very important to follow the instructions your dentist gives you, and to make sure that you go for any follow-up appointments recommended.
Whitening can only lighten your existing tooth colour. For a change to specific chosen shade veneering is another option. Whitening also works on natural teeth. It will not work on any type of ‘false’ teeth. This includes dentures, crowns and veneers. If dentures are stained or discoloured, it may be worth visiting the dentist and asking him or her to clean them. Stained veneers, crowns and dentures may need replacing. Again, ask your dentist.
There are now several whitening toothpastes you can buy. Although they do not affect the natural colour of the tooth, they are effective at removing staining and therefore improving the overall appearance of the tooth. Whitening toothpaste may also help to keep up the appearance, once teeth have been professionally whitened. You can use the whitening gel prescribed by your dentist at intervals to maintain the shade of your choice. The bleaching trays that you had at the first visit can be reused as it is customised to fit your teeth. Happy whitening.