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Teeth whitening is a dental procedure that must be done every so often to remove stains which discolor teeth.
These stains could be extrinsic or intrinsic.
The former is caused by the food we eat or drink and smoking.
These stains form on the outer layers of our teeth and will become entrenched unless they are removed by regular teeth whitening and good oral hygiene.
The latter is caused due to age, trauma or exposure to minerals and excess fluoride which is sometimes found in water.
A bleaching agent – usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide is used to make teeth a few shades lighter.
What are the benefits and issues of various teeth whitening systems
There are many over-the-counter teeth whitening systems that can be used at home.
These are plentiful and cheap to use compared to those supplied by the dentist or an in-office whitening procedure done at the dentist’s office.
Benefits: The main advantages of home teeth whitening is:
- They are simple to use
- They are convenient – i.e. you do not have to spend time visiting the dentist but can whiten your teeth at your own convenience. Most of these at-home teeth whitening systems are easy to carry around and can be taken to work or when traveling too.
- Very often, these are adjunct treatments the dentist will recommend to maintain teeth that have been whitened at the dentist.
- Another major advantage is these are relatively cheap, ranging in cost from $4-$100 making them easily affordable for everyone when compared to expensive professional teeth whitening.
Issues with home teeth whitening systems are:
There are a few issues with home teeth whitening systems.
If they are not of a good brand, they may not be very effective. Also if the mouth guard is ill-fitting, some of the bleaching agents may penetrate into your gum tissues and teeth and cause sensitivity.
A custom-made mouthguard will fit better and offer greater whitening benefits.
These days there are some whitening trays that can be adjusted to fit various teeth sizes.
It is always advisable not be buy a teeth whitening system before asking a dentist.
They will be able to assess which system will be most effective for you and if you have any dental problems that will prevent the use of certain types of whitening systems.
Popular Brands of Teeth Whitening System
- Whitening trays: These are mouth trays that come with a pre-filled bleaching gel made from hydrogen peroxide. They come in a standard size that fits most people and it fits directly over the teeth and can be used for at least 2 hours a day for 4 weeks or longer. The duration depends on factors like the extent of discoloration of teeth and concentration of the gel. Teeth whitening trays can also be custom made and supplied by a dentist. A popular brand of teeth whitening tray is the ‘Watts Dental Super Thin Thermo Trays’. It comes in a pack of 6, made from thin moldable material for easy fitting.
- Whitening strips: These are easy to use flexible, invisible strips that have a coating of the bleaching gel. They just have to be applied on the teeth. They adhere very easily to all shapes and sizes of teeth, therefore, making whitening more effective. They must be used for 2 weeks at least and the results remain for at least 4 months. These days there are completely dissolvable strips available. They get completely absorbed and need not be removed after application. They also give an even whitening result. One of the most popular brands of whitening strips is the ‘Crest 3D Whitestrips Advanced Vivid’. It is easy to use and teeth get even 3 shades lighter.
- Whitening pens: These are also called brush-on whiteners and the gel comes in a pen that is easy to use. These pens come with a sponge applicator and a pre-filled bleaching gel. The pen uses a quick drying formula so that it does not leak on the gums and irritate them. It can be used thrice daily and you get results in about 2 weeks. A popular brand is ‘Dazzling White Instant Teeth Whitening Pen’ which is said to give you 4 shades whiter teeth within a week.
- Whitening toothpastes: These come with abrasives like silica, calcium carbonate or aluminum oxide that can get rid of superficial stains. Sometimes they also have a certain amount of a bleaching agent to improve whitening. They also contain similar compounds as regular toothpaste and hence may not cause excess wear and tear of our teeth. Hence, they can be used more frequently. A popular brand is “Crest 3D White Advanced Vivid Stain Protection Toothpaste’ which clean stains as well as prevents the formation of new ones.
- Whitening rinses: A whitening rinse may include mild concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. It can get rid of dental plaque, extrinsic stains and even reduce instances of gum disease. You can use the rinse twice a day for about 60 seconds each. ‘Fluoride Whitening Rinse’ from Listerine offer you both whitening benefits and helps with enamel restoration. This gives you both stronger and healthier teeth.
- Whitening floss: This is a dental floss that contains abrasives like silica. Daily use can remove stains from spaces between our teeth and reach difficult stains.
Usually two side effects can occur due to teeth whitening – sensitivity and irritation of the gums caused due to reactions to the bleaching agent.
This will usually disappear a few days after the treatment. Consult a dentist if the side effects persist.
You may be advised to stop the process for a few days to allow your teeth time to get adjusted to the bleaching agent or you may be advised to use the teeth whitening system for shorter periods and more frequently.
Brushing with toothpaste for sensitive teeth and getting a fluoride product to re-mineralize teeth can also help.
Usually, children, pregnant women, those with allergies to hydrogen peroxide, those with worn enamel, gum disease, sensitive teeth, cavities, and exposed roots, those having crowns, fillings and other types of restorative work on their teeth may not be able to use a teeth whitening system
. However, your dentist will recommend alternate methods to whiten teeth.
Do not have unrealistic expectations about the color your teeth will become after whitening
. While it can get lighter, it will not turn a brilliant white.
Also, darkly stained teeth may not respond well to any kind of whitening process.