Tooth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures. Quick and easy to perform, it can totally transform your smile and make you look years younger. Professional teeth whitening can not only remove the surface stains that make your teeth look yellow, but can penetrate the enamel to bleach deep-set stains that over-the-counter systems can’t touch. A dentist will be able to tailor your treatment to get the result you want, whether you are looking for a subtle or more noticeable outcome. Although there are lots of over-the-counter whitening products, you are best advised to go to a dentist, as anything that is sold on the high street is likely to have active ingredients in such low quantities that it is won’t have a very noticeable effect. There may also be some reasons that you are not suitable for teeth whitening treatment, which only a dentist will be able to ascertain.
If your teeth have become yellow or discoloured because of drinking coffee and red wine, smoking or just the natural ageing process then you could be a candidate for teeth whitening.
Of all the cosmetic dentistry options available, teeth whitening is suitable for most people as it has many benefits and few risks when carried out by a qualified dentist. However, there are several factors, including your dental health, lifestyle, and cosmetic goals, which can make teeth whitening more or less appropriate.
As with any cosmetic procedure, it is important that you have realistic goals. If you want to completely change the way your teeth look, then whitening alone may not be enough. In this case you may want to consider a more dramatic treatment such as veneers. If you have sensitive gums, you may be more likely to experience side effects of teeth whitening including increased sensitivity and irritation. If you have dental restorations, you may not be a candidate for laser teeth whitening. Pregnant women are not advised to have teeth whitening and the procedure is not usually performed on anyone under 16. If you are interested in teeth whitening, speak to a dentist to see if the procedure is right for you.
Teeth whitening has a very high level of patient satisfaction. It is a quick and easy treatment and results are instantly noticeable. The results you will get from teeth whitening will however depend on a number of factors such as the original condition of your teeth, how severely they are stained as well as the nature of the stains.
The treatment will usually lighten your teeth by up to five shades however teeth that are grey due to natural pigmentation or antibiotic use will only lighten around two to three shades.
Teeth whitening is not permanent, like any other form of bleaching it needs maintaining, as unlike porcelain veneers, which are stain-resistant, the natural teeth retain the ability to absorb stains, however, providing you look after your teeth, the results can last up to 10 years. Results differ from person to person and your dentist will advise you on what level of whiteness you will be able to achieve. Some people respond very well to teeth whitening and have dramatic whitening results whereas others may notice very little difference at all. Your dentist will be able to advise you on the likely results expected with your teeth. One golden rule is that, in order to look natural, your teeth should not be whiter than the whites of your eyes.
Teeth whitening is a very safe procedure with many benefits however, like any dental treatment, there are some risks. To ensure you avoid any risks and complications, always have your treatment done under the supervision of a cosmetic dentist rather as over-the-counter products.
Sensitivity is one of the most common side effects of whitening, however this only temporary.
The level of sensitivity can depend on the type of whitening you have. Most people will experience some kind of sensitivity either during and/or after the initial treatment with laser whitening systems. Some people who have laser whitening experience sharp shooting pains in their teeth for up to 48 hours afterwards. Your dentist may offer you a special gel or mouse to apply to your teeth to help reduce some of the pain and sensitivity.
If you are using a professionally supplied home kit you are likely to experience some level of sensitivity to hot and cold foods and even air. If you experience extreme sensitivity it usually means that you are placing too much gel in your trays and wearing them for too long. A lower concentration of whitening gel is available in addition to a desensitising gel, which can be placed in your bleaching trays in the same way as your bleaching gel. The good news is that this sensitivity is totally reversible and will cease when you stop whitening.
To avoid sensitivity, you should stay clear of very hot or cold foods for 48 hours after treatment and to maintain the result stay clear of cigarettes and staining foods and drinks. Gums can also become sensitive after teeth whitening, especially if you are already prone to sensitive gums. This will usually occur if the whitening gel comes into contact with the gums and causes irritation.
How your whitening is performed will depend on the type of procedure you have. All teeth whitening is based on a hydrogen peroxide solution; the only difference in the hundreds of systems out there is the concentration and the way the solution is applied to your teeth. There are two forms of professional whitening treatments: ‘in-surgery whitening and at-home whitening.
The take home whitening kits provide more permanent results over a longer time scale whereas laser whitening offers immediate results. A combination of the two provides the perfect solution to both immediate and long-term whitening.
Before you undergo treatment you will need to have a check-up and consultation with a dentist to make sure you are a suitable candidate for whitening. If you have any cavities these will need to be treated before you have your whitening as the whitening gel may cause damage to decaying teeth. You may also need to see a dental hygienist first or give your teeth a quick clean to remove plaque and tartar.
At-Home Teeth Whitening
If you have home whitening, you will need to have a couple of appointments to complete your treatment. Your dentist will need to make a mould of your mouth first. The mould will then be sent to a laboratory and a tray is made for you to use at home. The dentist will make sure the tray fits your teeth perfectly and will then provide you with whitening gel to take home with you. Depending on the bleaching agent used by your dentist, the tray is worn for a few hours each day, or possibly overnight for a week to ten days. Your trays should be very comfortable and easy to get used to. You may notice that your teeth may start to get whiter immediately, but it is important to carry on wearing your tray up to three to four weeks to achieve the whiteness you desire and longer-lasting results.
One of the benefits of at home whitening is that you can keep your trays and do top at treatments when needed. Another benefit is that it gives you and your dentist more control over the outcome of your treatment as the results are more gradual.
In-Surgery Teeth Whitening
In-surgery whitening is done using laser or power bleaching. Your dentist will be able to explain the pros and cons of each system and recommend one that is suited to your teeth.
Depending on the technique chosen, your dentist may use a special shield to protect your gums. A concentrated peroxide-based gel is then applied directly to your teeth. This gel contains a professional strength formula that ensures the laser accomplishes the maximum possible amount of teeth whitening. The gel is then activated with heat or light. The process usually takes about an hour, and whitens teeth by as many as 10 shades. In extreme cases, the laser teeth whitening procedure may need to be repeated to address deep stains caused by medications such as tetracycline.
The main benefit of in office whitening is the quick and instant results you get. It does not have as much of a long term effect as at home whitening but some dentists may also provide you with at home whitening trays to maximize your results.
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