Everyone loves a dazzling, bright smile. And in recent years, a great deal of focus has been placed not only on the ideal shape and uniformity of our teeth, but also their color.
No matter how healthy your teeth may seem, discolored or stained teeth can make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. There are various causes of tooth discoloration; it can be caused by medication such as antibiotics or an excessive intake of fluoride. But the most common contributing factor to stained teeth is usually attributed to the daily onslaught of coffee, soft drinks, nicotine, alcohol and food. Over time, the surface enamel begins to crack and erode, causing stains and discoloration.
The obvious solution to this problem is a teeth whitening treatment, and there are several brands available on the market, employing different techniques. It can be somewhat confusing when deciding which of these methods is best suited to your needs.
How Does Teeth Whitening Work ?
The whitening process uses peroxide to bleach discoloration and stains. Enamel is the first layer of the tooth surface and is actually semi-translucent. The layer underneath the enamel is known as dentin. In order to whiten the dentin, a peroxide solution is placed on the enamel. The solution will then bleach the dentin, resulting in whiter teeth. When teeth are bleached, stained teeth will generally lighten four to five shades, depending upon how severely the teeth are stained or discolored.
Whitening (bleaching) can be done either in a dentist's office or at home, using a system dispensed by your dentist. Both methods use tooth-bleaching gels that oxidize out the stain. It's not uncommon for teeth to become slightly sensitive during the whitening process.
- At-Home Whitening
At-home whitening is the more popular approach today. Your dentist takes an impression of your teeth and makes a custom-fitted tray, which you fill with a whitening gel and wear up to two hours daily or at night for about two weeks. Many whitening kits prescribed by dentists today contain a solution of 10-15% carbamide peroxide. When done under the supervision of your dentist, at-home whitening is very effective.
- In-Office Whitening
Less frequent and more expensive, this procedure takes from 30 minutes to one hour per visit, and you may have to return for several visits to achieve the desired whiteness. To protect your mouth, a gel-like substance may be applied to your gums and a rubber "shield" may be placed around the necks of the teeth. An oxidizing agent (the bleaching solution) is then applied to your teeth. Sometimes, a special light is used at five-minute intervals to help activate the whitening agent.
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