Are you one of those people who are concerned about their stained teeth, and want them to be pearly white, just like the sparkling teeth of a baby? Then visiting your dentist for a tooth whitening procedure might be the answer to your problems. In this procedure, the dentist uses various safe, and fast acting bleaching agents to remove the stains that have developed on your teeth.
What is Tooth Whitening?
It is a cosmetic dental procedure, in which the dentist exposes your teeth to a bleaching agent, usually carbamide peroxide, which is able to detach the adherent tooth stains, and bring the back the natural white color of your teeth.
How Is It Done?
• Tooth Cleaning - Before moving onto the bleaching process, the dentist or the dental hygienist will first clean your teeth using an ultrasonic scaler. This is done to remove the thick layer of food and bacterial debris, known as the dental plaque, which has been deposited on the surface of the teeth. Removal of the dental plaque ensures that all the surfaces of the teeth are completely exposed to the bleaching agent, and the whitening effect is observed uniformly on all the teeth.
• Fabrication of Custom Trays – Next, the dentist will make an impression of your teeth and gums. This impression will be sent to the laboratory, where trays will be made in acrylic (plastic) for the upper and lower teeth, such that it they easily fit into the mouth.
• Whitening Procedure – firstly, a layer of protective agent, such as petroleum jelly is applied to the gums, in order to prevent accidental bleaching of the gums. Next, the bleaching agent is poured into the trays, which are seated into the patient’s mouth, usually for about 60-90 minutes, after which the trays are removed.
• Tooth Polishing – Now that your teeth have been whitened, would you also not want them to be smooth and shiny? Of course! Therefore, in the final step, the dentist polishes your teeth using various sizes of polishing cups. After they have been polished, not only are they whiter, but also shinier.
Types of Tooth Whitening Procedures
Dentists perform two types of whitening procedures on the teeth, the vital, and the non-vital whitening procedures:
• Vital Tooth Whitening – As the name suggests, this procedure is performed on the vital, or live teeth. The aim is to remove the stains that have developed on the external surface of the teeth through the application of a suitable bleaching agent. It is more commonly performed, compared with the non-vital procedure.
• Non-Vital Tooth Whitening – In certain cases, the teeth become stained from the inside, after they have undergone a root canal treatment, and have become non-vital or dead. In this case, the dentist places the bleaching agent inside the root canal, so as to remove the stains.
What to Expect After the Procedure?
Slight swelling and sensitivity of the teeth as well as the gums can occur after the procedure, which normally subsided after 2-3 days. Ensuring good oral hygiene during that period can accelerate the healing process.
Will Tooth Whitening Also Be Effective On the Composite Fillings?
The peroxide bleaching agents used during tooth whitening are only effective on the enamel of the natural teeth, and are ineffective on the restorative materials, and they need to be either repaired or replaced, in order to match the results of tooth whitening on the natural teeth.
Is The Effect of Tooth Whitening Permanent?
Unfortunately, the effects of tooth whitening do not last permanently, and the procedure may need to be repeated, especially if you are a habitual smoker, or love to drink tea or coffee.
Despite the miraculous results that are achieved with this procedure, in the form of enhancement in facial and overall esthetics, tooth whitening cannot be considered as a substitute to regular oral hygiene maintenance. This is because, staining of the teeth is not possible if the teeth are regularly brushed and flossed. The old saying, that “prevention is better than cure” also holds true in this case.