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Section Questions and Answers

Tooth Whitening or Bleaching

  1. Should I have my teeth whitened?
  2. How does whitening improve tooth colour?
  3. What are the available methods for tooth whitening?
  4. How to get the best result from whitening toothpaste.
  5. Which teeth are suitable for whitening?
  6. Which teeth are not suitable for whitening?
  7. Will my whitened teeth retain their new colour?
  8. What if my teeth are not suitable for bleaching?

 
1. Should I have my teeth whitened?

  • Many people believe that whiter teeth make them look younger and more attractive. It is for you to decide if you wish to have whiter teeth.
  • Unattractive stains on teeth can be removed by whitening.

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2. Can tooth whitening improve tooth colour?

  • Teeth darken and yellow naturally with age.
  • Whitening lightens the colour of teeth.
  • Surface stains on the enamel can be removed by cleaning with abrasives during a regular dental cleaning. This can be combined with bleaching if necessary.
  • Surface stains, and darkening of the body of the tooth can be bleached to a lighter shade.

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Before
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After

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3. What are the available methods for tooth whitening?

  • Professional whitening
    Peroxide is the whitening agent that the dentist will use.
    A "curing light" is sometimes used with the peroxide to accelerate the bleaching process.
    Most bleaching techniques include the use of mouth trays.
    • These fit firmly over the teeth, but do not reach the gums.
    • The trays are filled with a paste or gel containing bleach.
    • The dentist will provide these trays for use in the surgery and for you to take home.
    • The dentist will tell you how to use the trays at home, how often to use them, and for how long to keep them in the mouth.
    • You will stop repeating the treatment when you are satisfied with the colour of your teeth.
    • Additional treatments may be needed to maintain the lighter colour.
  • Laser treatment
    • Laser treatment lightens teeth very quickly and effectively.
    • It is more expensive than conventional bleaching and not many dentists are able to provide the service.
  • Micro-abrasion
    Some stains in the enamel layer can also be polished away with a mixture of hydrochloric acid and pumice.
    This is called the "Micro-abrasion Technique".
    • It is used to remove surface marking caused by infection or injury, and other staining of unknown origin.
    • The micro-abrasion removes a very thin layer of the enamel.

See Innovations in Dentistry

  • Home whitening
    Home whitening can be successful, but professional bleaching will be better controlled, and is therefore preferable.
    • Home whitening kits are available off the shelf at pharmacies and drug stores.
    • They must be used carefully to prevent the bleach from reaching the gums, as it can cause an irritation.
    • The mouth tray containing the bleach should fit snugly over the teeth, but must not reach the gums. It is important to trim the tray carefully in this respect.
    • Correct use will bring the bleaching agent into contact with the teeth only.
  • Whitening toothpastes
    Whitening toothpastes have become popular and are being advertised as the key to whiter teeth.
    They are seen as an easy way to whiten teeth.
    • The whitening procedure becomes part of the twice-daily dental cleaning routine. No extra effort is required.
    • Whitening toothpastes are able to lighten the colour of teeth.
    • They can also help to maintain the lighter colour achieved by professional bleaching.
    • However, tooth whitening with toothpaste is a gradual process.
    • Many whitening toothpastes are effective in removing ordinary surface stains in addition to having a bleaching ability.
    • Most of these toothpastes include abrasive ingredients such as silica to improve their removal of surface stains.
    • Many brands claim to remove surface stains left by coffee, tea, red wine, coloured foods and tobacco.
      Others claim to clear stains and whiten teeth

See Toothpastes

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4. How to get the best result from whitening toothpaste.

  • Here are some tips when using whitening toothpaste.
    There are three principles to bear in mind:
    • The less saliva there is on and around the teeth when the toothpaste is applied, the more concentrated and effective it will be.
    • The longer the toothpaste remains in contact with the teeth, the more time it will have to lighten the colour.
    • The more often the toothpaste is used the better.
  • This is what to do:
    • Prepare the toothbrush by filling the entire length of the brush with toothpaste.
    • Swallow to remove the excess of saliva from the mouth.
    • Dry the teeth with a tissue or cloth, making sure that the outer surfaces of the front teeth are free of saliva.
      This will bring the teeth into direct contact with the whitening properties of the toothpaste.
    • Begin by first brushing the front teeth and then the other teeth.
    • Leave the toothpaste in the mouth for a minute or more before spitting out.
    • Brush your teeth at least three times a day, repeating the above routine.
      This should give you the best result from a whitening toothpaste.
    • Ask your dentist to recommend a whitening toothpaste.

See Toothpastes

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5. Which teeth are suitable for whitening?

  • Teeth that have darkened with age.
  • Moderately discoloured teeth.
  • Teeth that are only lightly stained by tetracycline.

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6. Which teeth are not suitable for whitening?

  • Front teeth that have fillings are not suitable for bleaching.
    The natural tooth and the filling are composed of different substances.
    It is therefore almost impossible to bleach the natural tooth and the filling to the same shade.
  • Heavy tetracycline staining will not respond to bleaching.
  • Teeth that have had root canal treatments often discolour internally. They may respond to internal bleaching. The tooth is opened and the bleach is applied. It is usually only moderately successful.

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Internal staining

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7. Will my whitened teeth retain their new colour?

  • Whitened teeth will only keep their colour if they are maintained by regular brushing, flossing and the use of whitening toothpastes.
  • Six monthly visits to the dentist for scaling and polishing are necessary.
  • More bleaching treatments may be needed if these measures do not maintain the whiteness.

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8. What if my teeth are not suitable for bleaching?

  • Porcelain veneers are the best way to correct tooth discoloration that can not be bleached successfully.
  • Veneers are aesthetic, permanent and durable, and will not lose their colour.

See Veneers

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Before
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After veneers

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