Teeth Whitening–Q&A with Dr. Aleksandra Ivetic
Teeth whitening is one the most common aesthetic procedures in dentistry, and, in recent years, it has become very popular. Still, many of us have numerous questions, doubts and even fears surrounding the idea of the treatment. To disperse those nagging questions and doubts, we asked Dr. Aleksandra Ivetic* to provide us with professional and honest answers.
1. Is teeth whitening safe?
Dr. Aleksandra:Over the years, professionals and patients have been evaluating teeth whitening techniques. The results obtained both in the dental office and at home are virtually guaranteed. Doctors used Peroxide for tooth whitening in 1884, for the first time. Despite the desire for whiter, brighter smile, many people have concerns about the possible dangers of teeth whitening. Remember, proper application is essential to the safety of teeth whitening.
2. What is the main difference between at-home teeth whitening and in-office treatment?
Dr. Aleksandra:An in-office tooth whitening solution ismore efficient than at-home whitening. The teeth whitening treatment we use in our office is professional grade. This form of teeth whitening requires the supervision of a dentist and a trained dental technician. We also use stronger bleaching agents which have been known to enhance a smile by several shades, even up to eight shades.
With in-office whitening, the dentist applies a professional-grade bleaching gel directly to the teeth. After that, the dentist uses a unique light to activate the gel’s whitening power. Unlike most other treatments, tooth whitening has fast results –just one hour if you will do it in the dental chair or up to fifteen days with home whitening kit.
The home whitening option lets you take home a professional whitening kit to use on your own time. This is a popular method because it combines the convenience of at-home treatments with the strength of professional whitening.
While individual results depend on your diet and oral habits, most take-home whitening kits can usually last for several months. Typically, a patient will only need to repeat the treatment once or twice a year. The trays have a special whitening gel that gently updates the shade of your teeth.
3. What is the natural color of teeth, and what makes them turn yellow?
Dr. Aleksandra:Natural pearly white teeth are a rare blessing for only a few lucky people, but most people’s teeth are naturally a couple of shades darker. Natural teeth are not bright-white, and we can find traces of yellow or grey undertone in most people’s teeth.
To understand the reason why, let me explain you the anatomy of the tooth. On the outside, we have a layer of enamel, which is a bluish-white color. But enamel is translucent, which allows the layer of dentin below to show through.
Dentin is a darker yellow color, and this is what gives teeth an off-white appearance. So, it’s the shade and thickness of your tooth enamel which determines the color of your teeth. If you brush and floss every day but your teeth are still yellow, it may just be that they are naturally that shade.
Previously mentioned tooth structure is an intrinsic reason for yellow teeth. There are also extrinsic factors that can make your teeth yellowish.
Following are the leading lifestyle-related causes that add to darker teeth color:
- Food – Foods like curries, tomato sauces, berries, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, beetroot, etc.)
- Beverages – coffee and tea are two of the most common causes of yellow teeth. Red and white wine are also to blame, fizzy drinks, citrus fruits, and juices, sports drinks.
- Medication or Illness- antibiotics such as tetracycline and amoxicillin can affect the color of teeth, especially in younger children. Drugs prescribed to adults for allergies and high blood pressure may also have this side effect.Certain illnesses, particularly those that affect the liver, can result in discolored teeth. Patients who undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer may also find their teeth turning a brownish hue.
- Excessive Fluoride Intake – Fluoride is good for teeth, but excess fluoride can cause yellow or brownish yellow spots called fluorosis.
- Accidents – Impact of an accident or physical trauma can crack tooth enamel and damage the tooth’s interior. This leads to discoloration that may indicate bleeding that needs professional attention.
- Tooth Grinding – An unconscious habit some people have when they’re stressed, especially while asleep. Also known as bruxism, it’s quite harmful to tooth enamel, weakening it to the point of cracking and yellowing.
- Wear/ Ageing – Teeth ultimately turn yellow as you get older, when enamel wears away from chewing and exposure to acids from food and drink. Most teeth turn yellow as this enamel thins with age.
4. Are there any precautions or specific procedures you usually recommend to your patients before teeth whitening?
Dr. Aleksandra:If you want to whiten your teeth, the best place to start is with a healthy mouth. Start with a dental check-up. We will evaluate, diagnose and treat any pressing oral health conditions. We’ll also advise you about different options to safely and effectively whiten your teeth.
Tooth decay, sensitive or cracked teeth, infections or periodontal problems should be diagnosed and treated before any tooth whitening procedure. Otherwise, you could experience discomfort.
Before the procedure itself, you should eat, brush and floss your teeth.
However, it’s a good idea for patients to undergo a professional dental cleaning before any elective dental procedure. One additional thing to note is that if you are prone to tooth sensitivity, it may be a good idea to brush your teeth with an anti-sensitivity toothpaste in the days leading up to your whitening treatment. These toothpaste formulas have agents that strengthen tooth enamel for reduced sensitivity to whitening (as well as to hot and cold).
5. What are typical side-effects of teeth whitening?
Dr. Aleksandra:A common side effect is tooth sensitivity. This is because the whitening gel’s active ingredient, hydrogen peroxide, works its way into the enamel to reduce or remove stains near the surface. As a result, it may also interact with the top of the dentin layer. This is a softer and more sensitive tissue layer within teeth.
Patients who already have eroded enamel or exposed dentin are likely to experience more prolonged sensitivity. Depending on the patient, this sensitivity can vary from a mild, dull ache to the sporadic pain that shoots through the center of the tooth. Regardless, any instance of increased sensitivity should last no longer than a few days after treatment.
Additionally, there are a few steps you can take to reduce any discomfort: avoid extreme temperatures, very hot or cold temperatures of food or drinks. Use a brand of toothpaste that specializes in sensitive teeth prophylaxis. These kinds of toothpaste have ingredients that will less likely harm weakened enamel or exposed dentin tissue. Consider switching to a sensitive-formula toothpaste around the time of treatment.
Another side-effect Is the possibility of gum irritation. The whitening gel is meant to interact with tooth enamel. It can cause temporary burns when coming in contact with softer tissues, such as gums.
These burns result in no permanent damage, leaving only irritation and discoloration that should gradually disappear in the coming days. By holding the cheeks away from teeth and isolating the treatment area from the gums, we can ensure that little if any gel touches nearby gum tissue.
A tiny percentage of people experience an allergic-type reaction.If a gel touches soft mouth tissue, some patients experience a burning and blistering of the gums and/or lips. If this occurs, discontinue use immediately, rinse the irritated area well, and consult us as soon as possible.
‘Bleachorexia,’ as it has become known, is an obsession with cosmetic dentistry in order to achieve perfect looking white teeth. ‘Bleachorexics’ are those who constantly undergo teeth whitening to counteract insecurities with tooth stains and tooth discoloration.
If you whiten your teeth too often, you may notice that your teeth begin to appear grey or translucent. This is opposed to the creamy white shade everyone desires to see after whitening their teeth.
6. Could you tell us more about the procedure itself. How long does the treatment last?
Dr. Aleksandra:With our innovative “Zoom! Whitening” procedure, we can easily make teeth whiter during a single, one-hour procedure. To begin the treatment, we’ll place a shield over your lips, gums, and tongue to make sure only your tooth enamel is exposed. Then we’ll cover the teeth that show when you smile, with the bleaching gel. Finally, we’ll activate the substance under the unique Zoom! light.
Together, the formula penetrates below the surface of teeth to break up even the most persistent stains and discoloration. After three 15-minute exposures to the Zoom! light, the results are in, and your smile has never looked brighter. To finish the treatment, we’ll apply a strengthening fluoride treatment for reduced sensitivity.
7. What happens after the teeth whitening treatment?
Dr. Aleksandra:It’s no secret that people love a bright white smile. But if you’re one of the thousands of people each year who have teeth whitening treatment, you know that the effects of whitening, unfortunately, don’t last forever.
Even the best whitening needs to be touched up every now and then. Eventually, your teeth will need to be re-whitened. Generally, an in-office teeth whitening treatment results can last anywhere from six months to two, three years, even more.
Here are some tips on how to prolong results of your whitening treatment:
- Periodic Touch-Ups: Occasional whitening re-treatments approximately every six months or annually, can be a great way to maintain the effects. For home maintenance, we will need to make bleaching trays and will take impressions for this at the first appointment.
- Avoid Pigmented Foods and Drinks: Reducing consumption of highly staining foods or drinks can help slow the discoloration of your teeth. You can also use a straw while drinking coffee or tea to reduce contact with your teeth.
Afterward, you will be sent home with touch-up trays to maintain your new white smile. The effects of the treatment vary in length from person to person, depending on their diet and oral habits.
However, with regular brushing and touch-ups, you should only need an in-office whitening once or twice each year. Switching to a whitening toothpaste and mouthwash can also help to maintain the results of your Zoom! Whitening.