What is dental bleaching?
Dental bleaching involves the application of a peroxide-based gel to the teeth in order to remove undesirable discolouration. Vital tooth discoloration can have various causes. First, the teeth may be superficially covered with an accumulation of dental plaque and/or tartar. Frequent consumption of coffee, tea or red wine or the use of tobacco products causes these deposits to become discoloured. A simple dental treatment (cleaning and polishing) by a dental hygienist is sufficient to eliminate these superficial stains. Discolouration may also occur in the teeth’s enamel or dentin. Natural aging, food, the use of tobacco products, certain medications in the tetracycline family, excessive fluoride ingestion at a young age and cavities may potentially cause discoloration within a tooth. To eliminate this type of discoloration, dental bleaching is recommended. However, since some discolorations react better to bleaching than others, it is important to have a dental exam performed by a dentist and receive a diagnosis.
What are the different methods available for bleaching teeth?
There are three bleaching methods:
1) At-home tooth-bleaching kits with custom-made mouth trays.
2) Tooth bleaching in the dentist’s office.
3) Over-the-counter whitening products.
You should discuss the different methods of dental bleaching with your dentist, as well as the effectiveness, risks, advantages and costs of each of these procedures. This leaflet deals with at-home dental bleaching under the supervision of a dentist.
What are the steps involved in dental bleaching at home?
Your dentist must first clean your teeth and perform a complete dental exam to ensure you do not have any cavities or defective dental restorations. Then your dentist will determine the cause of the tooth discoloration — a crucial step, since the duration and cost of the bleaching treatment will vary depending on the type and intensity of the discoloration. The dentist will then make an impression of your teeth and create a cast. This is done by heating a plastic sheet and molding it over your teeth, then transferring the impression to the cast. From this, a plastic dental tray is made that fits perfectly over your teeth. You will need to place a small amount of a peroxide-based gel in the tray, which can be worn day or night depending on your preference and schedule. On average, treatments last from two to six weeks. However, teeth that are discolored by nicotine or medications like tetracycline may require two to six months of treatment.
How long do the teeth remain white after a treatment?
This varies greatly among patients and depends on their habits. For most people, the effect lasts from one to three years. Some people find that their teeth will stay white for several years following a single bleaching treatment of a few days.