Who doesn’t want whiter teeth? It seems everywhere we look whether on television or prints ads the models and actors all have the whitest and most healthy looking teeth. Having whiter looking teeth is probably the most inquired about cosmetic question in dentistry.
Teeth appear dark for a variety of reasons. If a person has a light complexion by comparison the teeth can appear darker. Alternatively, if the individual has a darker complexion or makeup the teeth can appear lighter (print ads, those that are not altered by photographic trickery, cleverly choose darker backgrounds to make the teeth and eyes brighter. Teeth can become darker with age as the tooth slowly absorbs colors from darker food and liquids like wine, tea, cola drinks and tobacco use. Finally the outer layer of the tooth is termed the enamel and while it is ordinarily whitish, if the enamel is thin then the underneath layer of the tooth which is commonly darker is more easily seen through the translucent enamel. Thus the thickness of the enamel is genetically determined and can become thinner with use and age making the tooth progressively darker.
Today there are two main ways to attempt to whiten or bleach ones teeth. First there are a variety of “whitening” toothpastes. These toothpastes can work to some extent but rather minimally. They cost more than regular fluoride toothpastes and perhaps a motivated person brushing more than normal can remove some superficial stain. Typically the results are not very noticeable.
The second method, which has had very good overall results, is to apply a whitening agent, usually a form of hydrogen peroxide directly on the teeth for a certain period of time to oxygenate the tooth and remove stains and improve the overall color. The most common side effect is a temporary sensitivity to hot or cold but this disappears when the whitening process is finished or interrupted. There are commercially available strips that like a band-aide are placed on the front teeth, which have been shown to be effective. A much superior method is to have custom made trays – a soft comfortable tray – that covers all of one teeth and this intimately holds the bleaching material over all the teeth for the most effective results.
The whitening process has no affect on existing crowns, white fillings, dental veneers, or implants so this must be taken into account prior to whitening. One can find dentists and even kiosks in shopping malls that advertize the use of a special light or laser to accelerate or improve the whitening but studies have shown that there is no advantage whatsoever in the use of any bleaching lights. The use of the light is more for marketing purposes than any real value.
Keep in mind that the results of whitening vary from person to person. Some individuals will experience a great deal of whitening and others less whitening. For some people the changes occur quickly and other people require more time.
Whitening is an excellent choice for enhancing ones appearance and youthfulness, especially after orthodontic care and prior to other cosmetic procedures.