Teeth darken over time for a variety of reasons: coffee tea or tobacco consumption antibiotic use excessive fluoride or simply age. Should you find yourself unsatisfied with the colour of yours but do not what porcelain veneers or implants several options are available to whiten your smile:
1. In-office bleaching
2. At-home bleaching
3. Whitening toothpastes
In-office bleaching (also called chairside or one-hour bleaching) requires two or more visits to your dentist. He or she will apply a bleaching agent containing hydrogen peroxide to your teeth and flash light or heat at your mouth to quicken the work of the agent. A gel or a rubber shield will protect your gums. Each visit can last anywhere from half an hour to an hour. A more expensive yet sometimes more effective option is laser whitening. The process is very similar except that the light source is actually a laser light. Whereas chairside bleaching treatments usually use a lamp laser bleaching uses a laser pen allowing your dentist to light each tooth individually. This pen allows dentists to spend extra time on the more discoloured teeth.
At-home bleaching requires purchasing a peroxide-based bleaching solution from your dentist or pharmacist. These solutions bleach the tooth enamel. They usually come in a carbamide peroxide gel form along with a mouthguard. Place the gel into the mouthguard and use as directed. The duration and frequency of the treatment varies. Some solutions require overnight use for a shorter period of time; others require twice-daily treatment for a longer period. Your dentist will help you decide on the duration and intensity of treatment best suited to your needs.
If you want to avoid the dentist altogether several over-the-counter products are available at drug stores. Like other at-home treatments these products contain mouth trays and a carbamide peroxide solution. Be aware though of the risks of do-it-yourself tooth whitening kits. Like any off-the-shelf product these kits offer little room for customization. Your mouth trays will likely be one-size-fits-all or perhaps adjustable but they will not fit as snugly as a tray custom-made by your dentist. A loose tray creates the risk of bleach leaking onto your gums or down your throat causing irritation. As well to lessen the risk of irritation some products contain less peroxide. While the risk is lower so too is the whitening effect. Finally any irritation or reaction will require a trip to your dentist anyway.
Some kits such as those by Rembrandt require that you cast a mold of your teeth then send this mold away to a lab where a custom-made tray will be created and sent back to you. This option gives the convenience of at-home do-it-yourself teeth whitening without the risk of leakage.
Both in-office and at-home bleaching products change the colour of your teeth by oxidization. The hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide breaks down into water and a radical or compound constituent. The radical attaches itself to stain molecules and weakens them allowing oxygen to reach and whiten your tooth enamel.
Whitening toothpastes differ from bleaching because they do not permanently alter the colour of the teeth. In general they do not contain peroxide. They simply contain polishing agents that remove deeper stains from the teeth than regular toothpaste restoring the tooth to its original shade of white. Rembrandt toothpastes are exceptionsﾗthey contain peroxide and produce oxygen bubbles that whiten the teeth as you brush. Whitening toothpastes are given after a bleaching treatment to use for touch-up or maintenance.
Teeth whitening is a safe and popular form of cosmetic dentistry. According to the American Dental Association 96% of users report a whiter smile. Dentists warn though that teeth whitening is not for everyone. Tooth-coloured fillings for example do not respond to bleach and will stand out against a newly whitened smile. Before you begin a treatment talk to your dentist about your specific needs. Together you will determine if teeth whitening is the best option for you.