A clean, white smile is viewed as a symbol of beauty and health. Dental bleaching is a common cosmetic procedure which uses a product to whiten teeth beyond their natural color. To help consumers improve their tooth color, a variety of different products are available over-the-counter and in a professional setting. The use and effectiveness of the product are determined by the individual’s personal oral habits, consistency of product usage, and time restraints to achieve the anticipated outcome.
A combination of products can be used to brighten one’s smile. Products available include: toothpastes for daily brushing, whitening strips or gels, custom trays with a bleaching solution, and in-office whitening systems. The whitening material which helps to lighten tooth color is carbamide peroxide. This material reacts with the water in saliva to create hydrogen peroxide. The peroxide material provides the bleaching action by penetrating the dental tubules and bleaching any existing stain deposits.
As a person ages, it is common for teeth to darken not only because the tooth’s mineral composition changes, but also because the tooth enamel becomes less porous. Including aging, one’s personal habits affect the amount of stain deposit. The major factors affecting tooth stain are: poor oral hygiene, the consumption of foods with dark pigments, and the use of tobacco products. Since teeth whitening is a non-permanent process, bleaching one’s teeth and changing one’s personal oral habits can create and sustain the desired whitening result.
Although each of the whitening products available to consumers improves tooth color, each of the products has its limitations. Products with a lower concentration of the active hydrogen peroxide ingredient will take longer to produce the desired whitening effect. If an individual has no time restraints, then consistent product usage will achieve some whitening results; however, if whitening is needed in a short period of time, higher concentration materials will be needed to achieve the expected outcome. These higher concentration materials will need to be purchased and/or ordered through one’s dentist.
When an individual is using a higher concentration of whitening materials at home, the quickest results are achieved when the bleaching material is used in the evening after all eating has been completed. After the mouth has been cleaned, the whitening trays, gels, or strips should be used and no further eating or drinking should occur that evening. Allowing the dental tubules to close while sleeping, deters the absorption of stain in the morning hours from coffee, juice, or tea that may be consumed. Repeating this process on consecutive days helps to achieve the preferred outcome.
Dental bleaching systems in the office are the fastest way to whiten teeth. The action of the bleaching material is enhanced with the use of a light source. Although these whitening systems achieve fast results, one should be aware that a common side effect is tooth sensitivity. Some individuals appear to be more prone to sensitivity than others. A preliminary test to determine one’s personal dental sensitivity should start with use of a lower concentration material.
Before beginning the use of any dental bleaching product, it is always wise to consult with one’s family dentist. Reviewing options and discussing expectations is the best way to help one choose the best product to achieve the anticipated result.