Perhaps I am biased when I say that your smile says more about you than just about any other physical feature. Okay, forget the perhaps nonsense, I am biased. The first thing that I notice when meeting someone for the first time is their smile, which from this dentist’s perspective is an outward reflection of what lies within. I believe a smile starts from inside and works its way out in the glint of one’s eyes and the dental display of one’s countenance. A beautiful smile lights up one’s face and conveys an immediate message of warmth to its recipient before a single word is uttered. A pleasing, white smile is one of the quickest ways to make a great impression, and thankfully,
Whitening your teeth is both affordable and non-invasive.
There are many causes of tooth staining and discoloration, which tend to worsen over time. Professional whitening procedures can treat these stains safely and effectively, whether they are on the tooth’s surface or internal. It is for this reason that teeth whitening, also known as bleaching, is by far the most popular cosmetic procedure requested by our patients.
You may wonder as to how tooth bleaching works and even if you don’t, I am going to tell you anyway. Tooth whitening is a chemical process in which the hydrogen peroxide present in the whitening gel penetrates the tooth structure and oxidizes the molecules responsible for discoloration and causing teeth to break down. As the process continues, the entire tooth is lightened without altering the actual tooth structure. Enamel, dentin, and existing fillings or bonding is not affected or damaged by the peroxide.
Tooth whitening is a very safe procedure; however, there are some things that one should know prior to undergoing the process. Tooth sensitivity is a common side effect. This sensitivity is temporary and should disappear after bleaching is completed.
There are measures that can be taken to avoid or minimize this problem, which is why your dentist should do a careful evaluation before anything is done. Dental cavities must be addressed in advance of whitening to avoid more severe sensitivity issues. Also, those who have moderate to severe gum recession are more susceptible to bleach-induced sensitivity and may require pretreatment desensitizing. If your teeth have visible tooth colored bonded fillings, you should be aware of the likelihood that they will need to be replaced because they will no longer match the lighter shade of the whitened teeth.
Finally, while I have stressed the safety of tooth whitening, it is possible to over-bleach. (Too much of a good thing may not be good at all.) Excessive use of home or in-office bleaching products can result in opacity of the teeth, which is a loss of natural translucency due to the destruction of enamel proteins.
Tooth whitening can yield wonderful results, but don’t underestimate the importance of your dentist’s input.
My approach to tooth whitening involves two steps; the first of which is an in-office bleaching session followed by a supervised home program. My in-office technique usually takes only one visit to complete. It involves the use of a highly concentrated gel that contains carbamide peroxide that is activated by a special bleaching light. First, I protect the gums from irritation with a rubber “dam” and carefully apply the gel and turn on the light for 8-10 minute intervals until the desired whiteness is achieved. With this in-office procedure, most patients see instant, lasting results.
Because the whitening process temporarily dehydrates tooth structure, the appearance of the teeth improves over the subsequent 24 hours as the enamel and dentin rehydrate. Impressions are made of the upper and lower teeth so we can fabricate custom fitted bleaching trays for the home program. Several days later, the patient returns to our office so we can evaluate the results and deliver the trays and home bleaching gel. Sufficient time is spent educating the patient on the how to’s of home care. Another appointment is scheduled several weeks later for further evaluation.
One final comment. I mentioned at the onset of this discussion/monologue that I have a bias towards the appeal of a beautiful smile. Perhaps it’s because I am a dentist. Perhaps it’s why I became a dentist. However, I do not believe that if I were a podiatrist, I would be drawn to people’s feet. A wonderful smile can enhance one’s beauty, one’s self-esteem, and when given away can brighten someone else’s day.
Stay tuned for my next blog where I talk about what happens after the procedure and how practically anyone can have the white smile they’ve always wanted right from home.