In simple terms this involves any process that will make the enamel of the teeth whiter in colour. Everybody loves to have a bright white smile, and there are various products to achieve this.
The most common causes of tooth discolouration are aging, consumption of staining substances such as coffees, teas, soft drinks, smoking, trauma to the teeth, root treatments, large fillings; and ingestion of tetracycline containing antibiotics and excessive fluoride , these last two causing discolouration if taken during the period of development of the permanent teeth. .
The simplest way of trying to whiten teeth is by using a whitening toothpaste in combination with a thorough cleaning and polishing at your dentist to remove any superficial stains. Although this is simple to do, the degree of whitening achieved by the paste is minimal in most cases. .
Other options available to whiten the teeth are:
At home bleaching whereby the patient applies bleach( supplied in syringes) into plastic trays ( supplied by the dentist from impressions taken of the patients mouth) and then wears these trays for a number of hours. It is suggested that the patient wears the trays at night since there is a lesser flow of saliva at night and possibly there is less discomfort from the trays themselves when the patient is asleep. However there is no contraindication to wearing the trays during the day. For maximum results this is carried on for at least 5-6 consecutive times depending on the degree of whitening achieved. It is normal to expect some sensitivity during the treatment however there is absolutely no damage done to the teeth. If the sensitivity is high the patient can stop and then start again once the sensitivity has decreased. .
In clinic bleaching using the lamp/ light method, such as Zoom . The bleach material utilized here, which is stronger than the one used at home, is applied directly to the teeth by the dentist and the teeth are then exposed to a strong light for 1 hour. The bleach being stronger does not necessarily mean the patient will get more sensitivity. It certainly does not do any damage to the teeth. The degree of whitening of the teeth varies from one individual to another, and one can get equally good results with both the in clinic and the at home bleaching methods. The big advantage of the light method is that the whole procedure is over in 1 hour. One can also, if wanting to better the results, go on and do a touch up at home with the trays and the home bleach. .
Certainely one cannot guarantee an improvement of a defined number of shades for a particular patient prior to the treatment.
Any discomfort such as sensitivity experienced after the procedure will not last longer than 1-3 days, and one can use a de sensitizing tooth paste to reduce the discomfort. The patient is advised to refrain from smoking, drinking black coffee, red wine and in general taking anything which can potentially stain the teeth after the procedure for a couple of days. .
It is important to check that teeth and gums are in a healthy state prior to the whitening. Any leaking fillings should be covered and protected. Since bleach works only on enamel, then any white fillings should be changed after the procedure so they match the new colour of the teeth. .
If the patient suffers from sensitive teeth prior to the procedure this must be dealt with beforehand, otherwise the procedure might increase the problem. The dentist might advise against the treatment if the sensitivity is high.