Do you know about teeth whitening?

Having bright pearly whites is something that most desire. Wouldn’t it be great if our teeth just stayed bright and white all of the time? Luckily for us, modern technology has developed some great options when it comes to having a brighter smile.

It is important to know that there is a difference between teeth whitening and teeth bleaching. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whitening restores natural tooth color and bleaching whitens beyond the natural color. Knowing the difference helps to understand the types of results you will get with each system.

Teeth Whitening

This is a microscopic view of the enamel of a tooth.

Your tooth has a few layers to it. On the inside is a layer of dentin that sends hot, cold and pressure signals to the nerve or core of the tooth. To protect the structure on the inside, the enamel layer covers the whole tooth with hydroxyapatite crystals that look like hexagonal “rods” under a microscope.  Simply put, the outside of the tooth is quiet porous.

It is easy for foreign material to build up on the outside of the tooth; this outside layer is called pellicle film. Dentists can clean away this film and brushing can even help to sweep away some of it. For the most part, the pellicle film sits on the teeth for a long period of time, leaving staining agents to find their way into the pours of the enamel. These deep stains are not harmful to the teeth, but many people find the stains unattractive. This is where teeth whitening or bleaching comes in to make the teeth whiter and brighter.

Teeth whiteners work by getting into the pours of the tooth and cause an oxidized chemical reaction to break up the staining compound.  Most tooth whiteners use one of two chemicals, carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. There are a number of ways to apply these to your teeth, let’s look at the options.

In-office or professional teeth whitening
Usually when you choose to whiten your teeth by a professional, your dentist will do a thorough evaluation of your oral health, including a check for absence of cavities and gum disease. After the evaluation, the dentist proceeds with a stronger hydrogen peroxide compound that needs supervision when being used. Because of the oxidizing properties of the peroxide, a protective “dam” layer is put onto your gums so they do not become dried out. Usually, an in-office teeth whitening only takes a few hours and you leave with immediate results.

Take home teeth whitening
This is different than over the counter whitening because a custom mouth piece is fitted to your teeth. You fill this mouth piece with small amount of peroxide or bleach at home and leave the mouth piece in for a few hours at a time. This is very convenient to brighten your smile whenever you need to.  You only have to have the mouth piece fitted once, and it tends to be less messy than other take home products. While effective, these usually take a couple of applications before you begin to see results.

Over the counter teeth whiteners-
This option is desired because it is immediately available and the cost is typically low. Although, it is always a great idea to check with your dentist before using any over the counter whitening options. They do not usually vary in strength and the strips or mouth pieces can be messy, cause sensitivity and dry out your gums. The results typically take a few weeks.

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