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As we age, continuous chewing, acid attacks from sugar or trauma causes the external enamel surface to wear out.
It becomes transparent and develops cracks, causing the dentin (core material of our teeth) to show through. The cracks in the crystalline enamel begin to fill with dirt and debris.
Hence, the sparkling set of teeth we started out with as children slowly become stained and dull.
Teeth whitening is done normally using bleaching agents to make teeth lighter.
While we cannot achieve a brilliant shade of white, the different types of teeth whitening products can lighten our teeth color by several shades.
Teeth Whitening Trays
Teeth whitening trays can either be given by a dentist to be used at home or they can be purchased over-the-counter.
This process involves filling a tray that is shaped to fit your mouth with a peroxide-based bleaching agent – usually hydrogen or carbamide peroxide. The tray is worn for fixed periods of time or even through the night.
The duration really depends on the degree of discoloration, the strength of the bleaching agent and the level of whitening desired by each individual.
If you get a teeth whitening tray given by the dentist, he or she will first check if you can use such a whitening system at home.
He will then take an impression of your teeth and make a custom-made mouth tray that will fit exactly over your teeth.
This type of customization will allow the most contact between the teeth and the whitening gel. It also reduces contact between the gel and your gums – therefore reducing side effects like sensitivity and gum inflammation.
The dentist will also provide you with the right concentration of bleaching gel. All that you need to do is spread the required portion on the tray and then fit the tray on your teeth.
You will be instructed by the dentist about the amount of time the teeth whitening tray needs to stay on and the quantity of the gel you will need to apply for each session.
Using a tray given by the dentist also your teeth will first be examined and you will be treated for any problems like cavities, gum disease etc.
There are OTC teeth whitening trays also available. These usually come along with the bleaching gel. However, these trays are a common size and this will not fit everyone exactly – especially if your teeth are crooked.
If you use an ill-fitting tray, this could irritate the gums and soft tissues of the mouth.
However, when comparing costs, OTC teeth whitening trays will be less expensive when compared to custom-made trays provided by the dentist.
When you purchase OTC teeth whitening trays, you usually get a weeks supply of trays in one kit.
These come with either a pre-filled amount of whitening gel or with syringes which contain the gel that simply has to be squeezed on to each tray and then applied. You will normally use two trays per day – one each for your top and bottom teeth.
These trays are usually made of a flexible material that can mold to the shape of your teeth. However, they should be able to fit reasonably well and whiten teeth in a few days.
You cannot eat or drink anything when using these trays. The whitening gel dispensed by the dentist usually contains a 10-22% concentration of hydrogen or carbamide peroxide gel.
The specific time to use the tray will depend on this concentration. The cost of such dentist provided teeth whitening trays are around $300. However, the tray can be used repeatedly and you can save on that cost.
There are different types of teeth whitening trays available. Apart from the dentist, you can also purchase them from online retailers or the local drug store.
To prevent buildup of stains, you can continue the whitening process by using teeth whitening toothpastes and rinses.
Follow a good oral hygiene of brushing or rinsing after each meal and flossing at night to prevent plaque buildup.
Routine bi-annual visits to the dentist are also recommended. Try avoiding consuming dark colored drinks and food and smoking. Use a straw if you must consume them and brush and rinse immediately after.
Teeth whitening trays are not a permanent solution. You need to get periodic re-whitening done by the dentist.
Popular Teeth Whitening Trays Brands
The following are some of the teeth whitening trays available on Amazon.
‘DIY Moldable Thermofitting Teeth Whitening Trays’ – comes with instructions on how to best mold the tray to fit the contours of your teeth.
‘Watts Dental Super Thin Thermo Trays’ – comes in a pack of 6, made from thin moldable material for easy fitting.
Two common side effects can be experienced when using teeth whitening trays – or any other teeth whitening system – sensitivity or inflammation of the gum and other soft tissues of the mouth.
This is due to the bleaching agent.
If a mouth tray is ill-fitting, it could cause some of the bleaching gel to seep on to the gums and cause these side effects.
If you experience these side effects, you can stop wearing the trays or use them for shorter periods until your teeth get used to the bleaching gel.
If irritation persists, stop using the product and consult your dentist.
Teeth whitening trays are not advised for children below the age of 16, pregnant women, those with allergies to peroxide-based bleaching compounds, those with sensitive teeth, anyone who has had restorative work like crowns or fillings done and people with dental problems like exposed roots, worn enamel, gum disease or cavities.
It is best not to have high expectations and hope to get brilliant white teeth after using teeth whitening products. This cannot be achieved although your teeth will get several shades lighter.
Always remember that teeth with extremely dark stains will take time to lighten.