Bleaching or whitening?
According to the FDA, the term "bleaching" is permitted to be used only when the teeth can be whitened beyond their natural color. This applies strictly to products that contain bleach – typically hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.
The term "whitening," on the other hand, refers to restoring a tooth's surface color by removing dirt and debris. So any product that cleans (like a toothpaste) is considered a whitener. Of course, the term whitening sounds better than bleaching, so it is more frequently used – even when describing products that contain bleach.
Why would I want to have whiter teeth?
There are many reasons each of us would like whiter teeth including:
· To simply reverse years of everyday staining and yellowing
· To boost to our confidence and self-esteem that comes from a great smile
· For a younger appearance
· To make a positive first impression on others
· To prepare for a job interview
· A special event such as a wedding or class reunion
Why are my teeth not as white as they could be?
Over time your teeth have yellowed and become stained from drinking coffee, tea or cola.
Just like we all have different hair and skin color, we also have different tooth color. Some teeth are more yellow than others, while others yellow with aging. Your natural tooth color can also be affected by many factors including surface stains and internal discoloration caused by:
· The natural aging process
· Using tobacco (smoked or chewed)
· Drinking coffee, tea, colas or red wine
· Eating pigmented foods such as cherries and blueberries
· Accumulation of plaque and tartar deposits
· Ingesting too much fluoride when teeth are forming, which gives teeth a "mottled" look
· Treatment with the antibiotic tetracycline during childhood
· Trauma to the teeth that may cause a brown, gray or black color
Whatever your reason for wanting whiter teeth, you're not alone.
How does bleaching work?
There are two different ways to bleach teeth-externally and internally.
1) External bleaching procedures change your natural tooth color, usually anywhere from five to seven shades brighter. In-office (chairside) bleaching and at-home (tray) bleaching both rely on an active ingredient, most often carbamide peroxide in concentrations of 10-22%, which helps remove both deep and surface stains. There are significant performance differences between different bleaching procedures.
A light-activated whitening session done in a dental office, sometimes called chairside bleaching results in whiter teeth. It usually takes 1-3 appointments for 60-90 minutes to achieve the desired shade. However, after a year or so of normal eating and drinking (coffee, tea, soft drinks), your teeth become discolored again and develop new stains. With chairside bleaching, you have to return for another treatment, including re-paying the fee to have white teeth again. Because a one-hour chairside treatment does not result in significant shade changes and the need for re-treatment we do not recommend or provide chairside bleaching in our office.
Custom made bleaching trays, created for you in our office, for in-home bleaching provide the most dramatic tooth shade changes. You typically wear the trays several hours a day or overnight for about two weeks depending on how white you want your teeth to become. When you notice new staining, you simply wear the mouthpiece again for a night or two to take the stains off.
Over-the-counter products for whitening teeth (those found in a drugstore) include boil and bite tray application, whitening gels applied with a brush, and whitening strips. These products can produce some results but use weaker bleach that is not as effective in producing the desired results.
2) Internal bleaching is a procedure that is performed on teeth were external bleaching does not produce the desired effect. Teeth that are discolored from too much fluoride having a "mottled" look, use of the antibiotic tetracycline during childhood and trauma to the teeth that have a brown, gray or black color are conditions treated by internal bleaching.
Everyone responds differently to different whitening procedures based on the current shade of their teeth and reason for the staining. People with gray teeth or other serious discoloration may require porcelain veneers or bonding (see Dental Videos discussed elsewhere on our web site) to achieve the shade and smile they've always wanted.
If you would like to know what treatment is best for you please ask us at your next appointment. We will be happy to review all treatment options to help you get that smile you have always wanted.