Not for every-tooth!
Tooth whitening is a popular and readily available cosmetic procedure that is relatively non-invasive. Treatment choices range from take-home kits to speed whitening in the dental chair – or even in shopping malls. With all the various ads and promotions, you would be forgiven for thinking that all whitening products guarantee a Hollywood smile for EVERYONE. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Not all teeth respond to whitening
Teeth whitening is an effective way to deal with certain stains – from tea, coffee and red wine, certain foods, and the normal yellowing of ageing. These are known as extrinsic stains. Removing nicotine stains may require a professional clean (dentist or hygienist) before using a whitening product.
However, some discoloration, for example following certain medications or dental repairs to a tooth, will not respond to these treatments. And using a whitening method may make a darker tooth of concern even more prominent between healthy teeth that do respond.
Avoiding this scenario only requires a visit to the dentist, who can let you know if whitening can produce the results you are hoping for.
Tooth whitening treatments
And as for your treatment options:
Tooth pastes and other over-the-counter products contain lower concentrations of whitening agents (naturally) and can only produce gradual results.
Some “whitening” tooth pastes contain high amounts of abrasive substances which risk damaging tooth enamel in the process of brightening your smile.
Many dentists provide take-home kits, which allows for bleaching in the comfort and convenience of your own home. And importantly, at your own pace. Custom-made plastic trays taken from a mold of your teeth means a comfortable and snug fit. This helps as the trays are worn for several hours at a time, or overnight. A good fit is easier to wear as well as minimising leakage of bleaching compound which can irritate the gums. Normally, this process is done over a couple of weeks, with only periodic top-ups required. It is common for some short-term sensitivity during or following the process.
‘In the chair’
Whitening done in the dental chair produces the fastest and most dramatic results. It can be ideal prior to a wedding or special occasion. As it takes only around an hour, it uses the most concentrated agents. Sensitivity can be more pronounced with these products.
And finally, there’s a host of do-it-yourself remedies! Beware though of baking soda – it is highly abrasive to the enamel, and strawberries and apple cider vinegar are highly acidic which is a factor in erosion of tooth enamel . . .
So if you’d like to try whitening, it may save time and money to seek professional advice first!