Wanting whiter teeth is all-the-rage these days and everyone from movie stars to high school students are asking what teeth whitening options are available to them. We recommend speaking with us before you decide on a whitening product, since we can likely advise you on what we recommend for your specific dental profile. These frequently asked questions about teeth whitening will help you decide if bleaching is right for you.
Tooth whitening products all contain a form of peroxide product which is used for its bleaching effect on the colour of our dentin. As a result, bleaching and whitening are terms that are often used interchangeably.
When you apply a peroxide product to the surface of your teeth, the tiny channels in the enamel allow some peroxide to travel through the enamel and into the dentin. This is favorable because while our enamel is semi-transparent, our dentin is darker and much less transparent. The darkening of dentin is a normal part of a tooth’s aging process, and that darkened tone can be visible through the enamel. Men typically present with this issue more than women do, because of the larger tooth surface in males by comparison.
The most helpful steps you can take in your effort to whiten your teeth is to refrain from the things that are staining them, practice good oral hygiene and have regular professional cleanings done. Some teeth are exposed daily to major stainers like cigarette smoke, red wine and coffee. If you are concerned about the colour of your teeth, this is the first place you should look to for opportunities to change lifestyle habits. Your teeth, not to mention your overall health, will thank you to replace those habits for healthier alternatives.
Brushing your teeth after meals, or at least at either end of the day is necessary to keep the plaque bacteria count down in your mouth. Flossing at least once a day drastically decreases your chances of plaque on the teeth becoming stained or contributing to tooth decay.
Ensuring that you are getting regular professional cleanings done on your teeth, including an oral exam, is critical for removing the yellow or brown tartar that can build up around the gums between regular cleanings. This tartar cannot be removed with your toothbrush, and its removal can greatly improve the appearance and the health of the teeth and gums.
Tooth sensitivity is an unfortunate side effect of any whitening procedure, and it affects each patient differently. When the peroxide bleach is working on your dentin to lighten it, it is also dehydrating it. Dehydrated dentin can compress inward slightly, putting pressure on the pulp of the tooth and the nerve and blood vessels inside. Discomfort can occur over the 24- or 48-hour period that your teeth’s dentin is rehydrating.
If you have been using an over-the-counter whitening product to whiten teeth that have greyed after receiving root canal therapy, there is a good chance that this is not the product for you. Teeth that are grey after procedures or trauma are grey from the inside of the tooth and toward the outside. This is relevant because it tells us that a surface treatment in either over-the-counter or professional clinics would fail to provide the results you need because you need to start at the core of the tooth.
Internal tooth bleaching is used in situations where a root canal was incorrectly treated and therefore becomes discoloured over time. Internal bleaching involves making a small hole in the tooth and injecting a special tooth bleaching gel into the cavity. The bleach is left in the tooth for several days before being flushed. Several treatments can sometimes be offered. The root canal will likely be renewed before closing the tooth with a substance called ‘gutta percha’ and a composite filling compound.
Another reason that you may not be seeing the results you desire is that the over-the-counter strengths are not enough to bleach your teeth to the extent that you desire. Publicly available whitening products are restricted as to the concentration of active ingredient that they are allowed to make available. Dentists use higher concentrations of peroxide products which are used in conjunction with light therapy.
Whether you will have success with over-the-counter products such as commercially sold toothpastes, rinses and strips, depends upon what is causing the tooth to darken in the first place. Talk to us about products that we recommend using alone or in conjunction with clinical bleaching.