All you Need to Know about Teeth Whitening

Illustration of the difference in the color of teeth after a whitening treatment

All you Need to Know about Teeth Whitening

There are many different teeth whitening treatments out there. Some require you to use a whitening toothpaste or gel trays that you insert into your mouth, while others require you to undergo a treatment at the dentist’s office. Whether you choose the toothpaste or the dentist visit, the outcome of the treatment is based on the type of discoloration or stains you have on your teeth, and not necessarily the effectiveness of the product.

What you need to consider before choosing a Teeth Whitening treatment:

When thinking of getting your teeth whitened you need to know whether the discoloration on your teeth is extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic stains are on the exterior of the tooth and are normally caused by what we eat or drink, and certain recreational activities. Examples of these are coffee, wine, tea and smoking.

Intrinsic discoloration is the change in colour of the dentin in our teeth. Dentin is a layer of calcified tissue that sits under our tooth enamel. As we age, our dentin becomes darker and our tooth enamel becomes thinner, resulting in our teeth becoming discolored. This process can be sped up by elements that create extrinsic stains or by infection and tooth decay. Other factors, such as genetics and amalgam tooth fillings play a role in the discoloration of our teeth.

It is important to determine whether an extrinsic or intrinsic treatment will fulfill your teeth whitening expectations, so that you are happy with the results. Ask your dentist to examine your teeth during your routine checkup to determine what teeth whitening treatment is the best for you.

If your discoloration is extrinsic, it may be recommended that you have your teeth cleaned and polished, or use a whitening toothpaste that is generally more abrasive than normal toothpastes to remove exterior stains.

Intrinsic whitening is normally done at the dentist’s office as it requires a bleaching gel to be applied to the teeth. The gel normally contains hydrogen peroxide that is activated once exposed to intense light. A molecular reaction occurs, which then makes the dentin in our teeth appear lighter in color.

Most intrinsic treatments do remove extrinsic stains, however, an intrinsic treatment is an expensive way to remove exterior stains when compared to other solely extrinsic options. Stick to your dentist’s recommendation for pleasing results.

What to consider before whitening your teeth:

  • Patients need to be aware that it is normal to have extra sensitive teeth after a whitening treatment. This is a side effect that normally wears off after 24 hours.
  • Patients who already have healthier teeth will see better results than patients who tend to neglect their dental hygiene.
  • It is important to remember that teeth whitening is not a miracle cure and will not fix all your dental conditions by making your teeth appear whiter.
  • Whitening also does not last forever. With good care it only lasts between 6 and 24 months.
  • Over whitening your teeth or having your teeth whitened several times over a short period of time can lead to damaged and translucent teeth.

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