Tooth whitening is the process of lightening the natural color of your teeth. Whitening chemicals are applied to the surface, or internal space of a root treated tooth, and these chemicals will lighten the tooth’s color.
The active ingredient in most whitening products is either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. As the active ingredient breaks down, oxygen is released into the tooth enamel and lightens the color of the tooth.
The chemicals used for tooth Whitening can cause damage to your teeth, and burns to your mouth if incorrectly applied.
Tooth whitening only works on natural teeth, and will not lighten any artificial teeth, crowns, fillings or any other man made dental materials. When artificial teeth are present, you may want to replace them after your whitening treatment is completed and the new tooth color has stabilized.
In chair whitening involves your dentist applying concentrated whitening chemicals onto your teeth under their close observation. A rubber shield or protective gel is applied to your gums, and then the whitening chemical are applied to your teeth, using specially made trays.
Internal bleaching can be performed on teeth which have been root treated, and subsequently discolored due to the nature of this invasive procedure. The top of the root canal can be opened and a small amount of whitening product placed into the cavity. The cavity is then sealed allowing the whitening chemical to slowly whiten the tooth from the inside. Every few days the cavity can be re-opened and the chemical replaced until the desired color is achieved.
There are a number of different “laser” treatments which use a high intensity light source to whiten your teeth. The specialized light source bleaches your teeth in the same manner than the suns light can bleach paints and colors. Variants of the procedure can use a combination of light and chemicals to speed up the whitening process.
- Many dentists offer customized whitening solutions where they will take impressions of your teeth and make a custom whitening tray for your home use. They will then provide you with whitening chemicals to allow you to gradually whiten your teeth over the course of a number of weeks.
- There are many different types of home whitening kits available, including paint-on whiteners and strips. The effectiveness of these kits varies from manufacturer to manufacture. Many manufactures make false claims about the effectiveness of their products, and often their products just help to clean the surface of the tooth. Only products containing peroxides as an activate ingredient are likely to produce whitening.
Tooth whitening toothpastes are readily available, but are generally ineffective. In most cases these ‘whitening’ toothpastes do not contain any bleaching chemicals, and instead contain small abrasive particles which polish the surface of your teeth and help to remove stains.
Regular use of these whitening tooth pastes is undesirable. Each time you brush with these toothpastes, the enamel layer is worn down and this weakens the teeth.
Government regulations often prevent the sale of tooth whitening products which contain a meaningful amount of hydrogen peroxide. In the European Union only dental practitioners are permitted to sell products containing up to 6% hydrogen peroxide. The result is that the majority of over the counter products are ineffective, or may cause excessive damage to your teeth.
The process of whitening your teeth causes permanent damage and can weaken your teeth. Side effects can include:
- Sensitivity to heat and cold
- Irritation to your gums
- Damage to your enamel
- Uneven results between teeth, or on individual teeth
- Over bleaching where some teeth are too white