As we get older our teeth lose their natural whiteness and start to become discoloured. This happens when the dentin underneath the dental enamel starts to turn yellow. The effects are enhanced when teeth are exposed to substances that stain, like coffee and tobacco products. Despite the growing number of over-the-counter products available, only professional teeth whitening treatments can brighten your teeth safely and effectively. Let’s take a look at how does teeth whitening work to explain why.
Why Don’t Teeth Stay White?
Tooth discolouration is part of the ageing process; when we are born we all start off with white dentin. But as we age, our dentin starts to change colour. Genetics also play a role: some people just have naturally whiter teeth than others. Then, there are the lifestyle factors and the substances that we expose our teeth to. If you smoke, drink lots of coffee, soda or red wine, the colour of your teeth may be affected.
In order to address both internal and external stains and discolouration, you need a professional teeth whitening treatment that can safely penetrate your dental enamel. We say ‘safely’ because only professional whitening treatments are fortified to protect dental enamel and remineralise the teeth while they whiten.
Why Safety Matters?
Anything that penetrates your dental enamel runs the risk of damaging it so it makes sense to only use products that are tried, tested and approved. It does make sense, but plenty of people don’t actually pay attention to this very important aspect.
Teeth whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide in order to bleach stains and brighten the overall shade of the tooth. But because of abuse, only registered dental practitioners may administer teeth whitening treatments that contain more than 6% hydrogen peroxide. This is for consumer safety, and as a result of consumers either using a product for too long, using it too often or using it for longer than directed.
Your dental enamel is the hardest substance in your body. It is designed in order to protect your teeth against decay and damage. But if you damage it in the course of trying to improve the appearance of your smile, you are doing your dental health a disservice.
Commercial Whitening Products
Whitening treatments that are available over the counter are not as effective as professional treatments because they are not strong enough. Many whitening kinds of toothpaste and kits contain abrasive substances that can damage your dental enamel. And because they have a low concentration of bleaching agent, they are ineffective at changing the shade of your teeth
There is also no research to indicate that natural and home remedies like baking soda, lemon juice and charcoal can whiten teeth. Prolonged exposure to acidic substances can also damage tooth enamel and should be avoided. Professional whitening is the most predictable and safest way to brighten your smile.
How Does Teeth Whitening Work?
Any whitening treatments need to be preceded by a dental consultation. This is to check on the condition of your gums and teeth and to ensure you do not have any signs of decay. Your dentist also needs to clean your teeth professionally, to make sure you have no plaque or tartar build-up.
You will discuss your teeth whitening expectations with your dentist, who should be able to show you pictures or a colour guide of what sort of results you can expect. Depending on your timeline for whitening, you may have the option of an in-chair treatment or, if you are more flexible, you may be able to try the at-home whitening trays.
In-chair teeth whitening
Having your teeth whitening procedure done by your dentist is the safest and fastest way to achieve a brighter smile. First, your gums will be covered with a protective barrier, before the whitening gel is painted carefully onto each tooth. A special light will be shone on your teeth in order to activate the gel. Stains are dissolved and the shade of your teeth will be lightened over the course of 15 minutes. The gel will be rinsed off. The process may be repeated another two or three times until your desired result has been achieved.
If you are in less of a rush for whiter teeth and would prefer the flexibility of at-home whitening, your dentist can make up custom trays to use. You will be given a weaker concentration of whitening gel, which you will dispense carefully into each of the compartments of your trays. You will wear the trays for a few hours a day or at night, for a prescribed period of time. This method may take a little longer to see results, but you can discuss your expectations with your dentist.
To find out more about “how does teeth whitening work” or which whitening options will suit you best, please contact us for an appointment: (02) 9158 6211.