What Is Teeth Whitening? Who Can Get Teeth Whitening?
Teeth whitening is the restoration of tooth color by decolorizing the stains caused by organic or inorganic deposits on the surface of the teeth, that is, the porous enamel layer, using bleaching gels and laser.
Teeth are whitened with bleaching agents, such as hydrogen peroxide or its derivatives. These agents release oxygen, which in turn whitens the tooth.
Teeth whitening can help to achieve whiter teeth in patients with yellow, brown, or gray teeth.
Teeth whitening should only be applied to healthy teeth and gums and to patients with good oral hygiene. Teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure, therefore one size does not fit all.
Currently, different teeth whitening options available that can be applied by yourself (i.e., at-home) or by a physician (i.e., in-office).
In any case, a dentist must decide which tooth whitening method is appropriate for the patient.
The abrasive substances in these toothpastes remove the stains on the teeth. Since these pastes do not contain hydrogen peroxide, a whitening agent, they do not penetrate into the deep layers of the teeth and only remove superficial stains.
At-Home Teeth Whitening Systems
These whitening systems are used under the supervision of a dentist. The physician creates a personalized tray that is molded to the patient’s teeth. The patient then uses these trays for a few hours every day for approximately 4 weeks, depending on the peroxide concentration. The duration of the application will also depend on the color and density of the stains, the desired color tone, and any sensitivity that may occur.
At-Home vs. In-Office Whitening
At-home whitening products use typically less strong bleaching agents that in-clinic gels. At-home whitening systems utilize custom trays to apply the whitening gel.
The patient places the whitening gel in the tray, and the tray to their mouth. Despite being molded to the patient’s teeth, the whitening gel may leak from the margins of the tray and irritate and burn the gums and soft tissues. During in-office whitening, the physician has complete control throughout the procedure and protects the gums and soft tissues.
This makes a significant difference. In-office treatment is somewhat more costly than at-home applications. However, in-office whitening systems provide optimal results, both in terms of health and tooth color.
The dentist must determine the cause of the discoloration and accordingly decide whether the patient is suitable for tooth whitening, and if they are, select and provide the appropriate whitening system and material.
In physician-assisted whitening systems, the patient and physician must always be in communication. The physician should check the stability of tray fit in the patient’s mouth.
Whitening Gels and Strips
Whitening gels are peroxide-based transparent gels that are applied to the surface of the teeth by the patient using a small brush. They are usually applied twice a day for 14 days. Whitening strips, on the other hand, are invisible transparent strips coated with a peroxide-based gel and are placed on the teeth by the patient.
Both types of whitening systems provide visible results within the first few days, and the results should last at least 4 months. That said, these methods are not performed under the supervision of a physician and the physician does not have a command of the whitening agent contents of these products. Therefore, they are not recommended.
In-Office Whitening Systems
In-office whitening is the fastest and most effective teeth whitening method. It includes the direct application of the whitening product on to the teeth.
The dentist applies a protective gel or covers the gums with rubber to protect the gums and soft tissues from the bleaching agent. These products are used in combination with special lights or laser.
The results are visible within 30-60 minutes of the application. In applications without heat or light curing, the teeth whitening process is repeated several times until the desired result is achieved.
After teeth whitening
Avoid extreme temperatures for the first few days. Every patient is given a list of foods that needs to be followed after the procedure. Any food or drink that may stain the teeth is prohibited. The first three days are the most important, that said, the patient should ideally avoid the indicated foods and drinks for 7-10 days.
Cigarettes, tea, coffee, and foods dark in color like chocolate, red wine, cherries, caramel, and tomato paste should be avoided for 1 week after the procedure. Otherwise, the whitening effect will be negated, and the teeth will start to return to their original color.
Who Should Avoid Teeth Whitening?
Teeth whitening is not applied to patients under 16 years of age. In these patients, the pulp chamber and dental nerves are at their largest. Therefore, teeth whitening can irritate the pulp and cause excessive sensitivity, and the patient may even end up requiring root canal treatment.
Teeth whitening should not be applied to pregnant women, patients with hypersensitive teeth or gum recession due to gum disease, or patients allergic to peroxide (the bleaching agent).