Dental whitening is a very popular aesthetic treatment; it has now assumed considerable importance both in the home and in the professional sphere. White and healthy teeth represent one of the most coveted and sought-after aesthetic characteristics.
But what exactly is teeth whitening? Generally, this term includes any treatment that causes the teeth to appear whiter. In the article dedicated to their color - to which we refer anyone wishing to deepen the subject - we have seen how this characteristic, absolutely individual, is often far from tracing the much-desired candor. The fault, in many cases, is attributable to unfavorable genetic characteristics, smoking, the passage of time, and the intake of particular foods or drinks, such as coffee, licorice, tea, and artificial colors.
To restore the color of the teeth to the white and brightness of the past, it is possible to choose between different types of fast and non-invasive whitening treatments. Beyond the effectiveness inherent in the various methods, it is necessary to become aware of their limitations. Undergoing these treatments, in fact, in the best of cases means restoring the color of the teeth to the ancient splendor, up to slightly lightening the shades given to it by mother nature.
Teeth whitening is indicated to treat dental discolorations that can occur over the course of an individual's life. In this regard, we remind you that these discolorations can be superficial (such as those caused by excessive consumption of coffee or tobacco) or more or less deep (such as those caused by the intake of some types of drugs).
Furthermore, dental whitening can be performed both on vital teeth and on teeth that have lost vitality. In the latter case, however, the procedure is slightly more complex and requires longer execution times.
As anticipated, there are several treatments to whiten your teeth. In general, teeth can be made whiter in two ways: by rubbing (mechanical whitening) or with bleaching substances (chemical whitening).
Regardless of whether it is mechanical or chemical - teeth whitening can be of two types: professional or home.
The professional treatment, of course, must be carried out by the dentist in specialized beauty offices or centers, while the home treatment can be carried out at home through the use of certain products. Alternatively, it is possible to whiten your teeth by carrying out combined treatments (dental office, specialized center - home).
As mentioned, professional whitening must be carried out in dental clinics - or any case in specialized centers - directly by the dentist or, possibly, by the dental hygienist.
When we talk about professional whitening, we refer to the so-called bleaching, that is, the whitening carried out in the chair through the use of bleaching chemical agents that can be activated or not by any light sources (as happens, for example, in laser whitening).
Naturally, professional whitening is more effective than home whitening in terms of speed and degree of whitening obtained.
Before proceeding with any whitening method, it is necessary to perform a thorough dental cleaning (or scaling, if you prefer) in order to remove tartar, plaque, and any external pigmentations.
One of the most commonly used techniques in this area is represented by air polishing which involves the use of a jet of air, water, and sodium bicarbonate delivered by a specific instrument directly on the tooth surface.
Only after having performed the scaling is it possible to proceed with the actual whitening.
Without prejudice to the importance of a periodic scaling that should be performed every time you undergo a professional whitening treatment, every 6-12 months - depending on your needs - you can contact your dentist to carry out a whitening treatment of professional cosmetic dentistry (bleaching).
Bleaching is the most widely used professional technique and is performed directly in the dental office. For this reason, it is also referred to as "chairside teeth whitening." This procedure exploits the action of highly concentrated chemical bleaching agents that may or may not be enhanced by specific lamps that favor their action in depth.
The most common whitening agents in the professional field are represented by the gel based on hydrogen peroxide at 38% and by the gel based on carbamide peroxide at 45%.
Hydrogen peroxide is applied directly to the tooth surface and requires 2-4 applications of 15 minutes each which can be carried out in one or more sessions.
Carbamide peroxide, on the other hand, is placed in contact with the teeth with the aid of specially customized masks that must be left on for 30 minutes.
In some cases, the action of whitening agents can be enhanced through the use of light sources: this is the example of laser teeth whitening. This particular type of treatment involves the use of hydrogen peroxide at high concentrations, which - once applied to the tooth surface - is irradiated with a laser at a precise wavelength.
The hydrogen peroxide gel is thus activated by the heat generated by the irradiation and releases free radicals that are able to penetrate the tooth structure. In this way, redox reactions are triggered inside the tooth, which breaks down the molecules of the stains into smaller, colorless, and easily eliminated compounds (for more information: Laser Teeth Whitening).
After the session, it is important to avoid smoking and drinking colored foods and drinks for at least 24 hours.
The intensity of the whitening depends on the concentration of the active ingredient and its exposure time on the teeth. In any case, compatibly with the dentist's experience, a professional intervention guarantees the best possible result, minimizing undesirable effects such as excessive thermal sensitivity and gingival irritation. These disorders are prevented at the root by protecting the gums, tongue, and lips with aids also useful for increasing the comfort of the session (generally, products containing potassium nitrate and fluoride are used). Slight gingivitis, however, tends to occur at the end of the treatment, only to regress spontaneously in the following 24-48 hours.
The presence of caries, tartar, or gingivitis requires a preventive resolution of the problem. Furthermore, the operation is not recommended for children under the age of 14 and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
The bleaching session with bleaching agents enhanced by light sources can vary from 40 to 60 minutes and the cost.
As for the whitening of non-vital teeth, the procedure is totally different from what has been described so far. In these cases, in fact, 35% hydrogen peroxide is used, which is inserted directly into the tooth to be whitened. After that, a temporary filling is made, and the patient can be sent home. After two or three days, the patient must go to the clinic again, where the dentist will check the degree of whitening obtained and will assess the need to carry out a further application or not.
The professional bleaching intervention contrasts with the traditional empirical and do-it-yourself approaches, with a generally low cost but with lower results which, moreover, require relatively long times to be appreciated.
One of the most common methods consists in the use of abrasive kinds of toothpaste, whose whitening action is carried out by brushing the teeth with toothpaste with different granulometry. Excessive or improper use of these products can wear down the dental enamel, resulting in yellowing of the teeth; their effectiveness, moreover, is limited to the removal of the most superficial stains.
For home whitening, the dentist can create customized soft silicone trays in his office, reproducing the exact shape of the patient's dental arches. In other words, it can provide the patient with the same type of masks used in the clinic for bleaching with high concentration carbamide peroxide.
Inside these masks, the right amount of whitening gel substances is inserted - such as carbamide peroxide at low concentrations (usually ranging from 10 to 20%) - and proceeds with the application on the teeth. By keeping them in place for a time ranging from 30 minutes to 4-8 hours (according to the dentist's instructions) and repeating the operation for about a week, an excellent whitening effect is obtained (comparable to chairside bleaching).
Generally, the duration of the effect is about 5-6 years, provided that short-term boosters are made during this period.
Another widely practiced home intervention uses the so-called "white strips," adhesive strips based on whitening agents that must be adhered to the teeth for 30 minutes, twice a day, for 14 days. Economical, practical, and with a low risk of dentinal hypersensitivity, this treatment, however, is not very effective, requires quite a long time, and the results are guaranteed only for a few months.
We can only know what type of whitening treatment is right for you if you visit our excellent dental office in Surprise, AZ: Great Smiles Dental Care. Dr. Wendelschafer and our experienced dental team are cosmetic dentistry experts and can give you the correct whitening treatment and shading to make sure your smile pops for years to come! Book an appointment with us today and unlock your Great Smile!