If your eyes are the gateway to your soul, your smile is the gateway to your heart. There are many factors that contribute to a beautiful smile in my line of work, but teeth whitening is one of the simplest ways to give your smile a brighter, whiter lease on life.
When we are children, our deciduous teeth (baby teeth) are bright, white and full of life – that is, until they fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth. From this point onward, our teeth are exposed to a multitude of conditions which endanger the white enamel surface of the tooth. Foods, dark liquids such as tea, coffee, red wine and caffeinated beverages, smoke and even some prescribed medication can all cause your teeth to loose their whiteness. A history of dental trauma can also cause tooth discoloration, which would require a different approach to reach the desired whiteness. Generally speaking, the teeth bleaching only applies to oxidizing normal tooth enamel. Whitening will not change the color of any dental restorations, and should not be used on darker root structures of the tooth or with tetracycline staining. Sometimes, cosmetic procedures such as porcelain veneers or bonding would be a better solution, in which case a consultation with your dentist would be necessary.
There are two ways to whiten your teeth: with whitening kits, and laser whitening (power bleaching). Over-the-counter kits to whiten teeth are sold both at your local pharmacy and from your dentist’s office. Custom fitted kits sold from your dentist’s office include retainer-like trays which are made from custom impressions of your teeth, whereas over-the-counter varieties are not as effective. The active ingredient breaks down into hydrogen peroxide, which oxidizes the stain deposits in the enamel of your teeth. Application is done for a few hours per day, for one to two weeks. The advantage to whitening kits is that you can keep your impression trays for future use, and only have to buy the whitening gel again. Regular dental check ups are necessary to make sure your teeth are healthily receiving the bleaching process.
Laser whitening is the method to whiten teeth I use in my office. Employing the use of an argon laser enables fast, painless and safe whitening of the teeth without potentially harmful UV damage, or heat which can irritate the pulpal tissues of the teeth. Arc lamps, a more common light-based whitening treatment, use energy that comes in a wide range of electro-magnetic waves, which could cover from the UV range into the infrared (heat) range, which could pose a health risk. Also, arc lamps can cause pulpal inflammation, leading to heightened gum sensitivity. The laser whitening process takes about 1 hour, providing instant gratification of the whitening results and the convenience of minimum work at home.
For the best teeth whitening results, I usually recommend my patients use a combination of in-office laser whitening, and usage of our take home kit, allowing for touch-up treatment by the patient at the convenience of one’s own time and own place. Once the desired bleaching result is reached, with proper care, it can last up to 3 years. If touch-up bleaching is needed, the time investment is extremely low (almost instant).
Remember, your smile is the gateway to your heart! Let it shine!