Everyday life takes its toll on our teeth. Drinking too much tea or coffee, smoking or even eating strongly coloured foods can stain and discolour them. There are toothpastes available which will help remove these stains, but they can’t change the actual colour of the tooth underneath. The colour of the teeth is determined by your DNA, just like the colour of your hair or your eyes. As we get older dentine, the softer substance below the enamel that protects the nerves and the blood supply to the tooth, changes colour becoming more yellow. This is something which a stain removing toothpaste alone cannot improve. By applying a whitening / ’bleaching’ agent to the teeth Dentists can whiten them giving you a sparkly white smile. The procedures are simple, harmless and practically painless. It is important though to do it under your Dentist’s supervision. Internet bought products are not always appropriate and a pre treatment assessment is vital if you have gum disease or tooth coloured fillings / crowns / veneers present.
There are two main ways to whiten groups of teeth. One is done at home by wearing very thin, flexible custom made mouth guards that hold a whitening gel against the tooth surfaces at night. This usually takes ten to fourteen nights per arch (upper or lower) if done separately. The other is done by a Dentist at the Practice using a stronger concentration of whitening gel and can be usually be completed in a couple of hours or so. These are “outside to in” whitening. Temporary sensitivity, the main complicating symptom of this type of whitening, is more likely to be a problem with the latter technique but doesn’t affect everyone. Costs are usually lower with “take home” whitening kits.
Individual tooth whitening of a discoloured root filled tooth can also be carried out from “inside to out”. A different whitening gel is placed in a small cavity prepared where the tooth was originally filled and left in place for four or five days. It is replaced as needed until the desired result is achieved.
No whitening agents will alter the colour of fillings, crowns, bridges or veneers and different teeth respond differently to the process. It’s important to discuss these implications with your Dentist before starting any treatment.
- Usually simple, quick and effective
- Less costly than crowns or veneers to change tooth colour
- Not damaging to tooth tissue
- Won’t change crown, veneer or white fillings’ colour
- Can get temporary increase in sensitivity
- Most expensive option initially
- Results will gradually fade
- Final colour not always guaranteed