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What is teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening involves bleaching your teeth to make them lighter. Teeth whitening can’t make your teeth brilliant white, but it can lighten the existing colour by several shades. Whitening is among the most popular cosmetic dental procedures because it can greatly improve how your teeth look.
The color of natural teeth is created by the reflection and scattering of light off the enamel, combined with the color of the dentin under it. Your genes affect the thickness and smoothness of the enamel. Thinner enamel allows more of the color of the dentin to show through. Having smoother or rougher enamel also affects the reflection of light and therefore the color.
Every day, a thin coating forms on the enamel and picks up stains. Tooth enamel also contains pores that can hold stains.
The most common reasons for teeth to get yellow or stained are:
- Using tobacco
- Drinking dark-colored liquids such as coffee, cola, tea and red wine
- Not taking good care of your teeth
Aging also makes teeth less bright as the enamel gets thinner and the dentin becomes darker.
It is also possible to have stains inside the tooth. These are called intrinsic stains.
Who can perform teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening is a form of dentistry and should only be performed by a dentist or another regulated dental professional, such as a dental hygienist or dental therapist, on the prescription of a dentist.
Some beauty salons offer teeth whitening, but this is illegal if there's no dental professional present, and it may put your oral health at risk.
You can also buy DIY home teeth whitening kits but these might be inefficient or carry risks.
What happens during teeth whitening at the dentist?
There are many different type of teeth whitening. The most reliable way what is called " Home teeth whitening ". The dentist will take an impression of your teeth to make a mouthguard and will instruct you how to use it with a bleaching gel. Then, using your mouthguard at home, you regularly apply the gel for a specified period of time.
Another type of teeth whitening system that a dentist can provide is called laser whitening, which is also known as power whitening. This is where a bleaching product is painted onto your teeth and then a light or laser is shone on them to activate the whitening. Laser whitening takes about an hour, but it does not give good result as the " Home whitening " because simply the whitening material does not have enough time to penerate inside the teeth (enamel). Usually a laser tooth whitening needs to be completed by a Home teeth whitening.
What about beauty salons for teeth whitening?
You should only go to a registered dental professional for teeth whitening because whitening by people who aren't qualified, for example in beauty salons, is illegal.
Is teeth whitening permanent?
No, teeth whitening isn’t permanent. It can last to up to three years, but this varies from person to person. Generally, the whitening effect won’t last as long if you smoke or drink red wine, tea or coffee, which can all stain your teeth.
Will teeth whitening work on false teeth?
No. Teeth whitening won’t work on dentures, crowns, fillings or veneers.
What are the risks of teeth whitening?
Whitening is unlikely to cause serious side effects, although some people's teeth may become more sensitive for a short while. You may get mild gum irritation as well. Women should not have their teeth whitened while pregnant. The effect of the whitening materials on the development of the fetus is not known. Since the procedure is cosmetic, it should be postponed until after delivery.