Teeth whitening is an increasingly popular treatment. Because whiter teeth are associated with youth and health, many people want to brighten their smile. Beautiful teeth lead to a brilliant smile and help boost your self-esteem.
What determines the colour of our teeth?
Tooth colour varies from one person to another and depends on:
- The contrast between your teeth and the colour of adjoining structures (gums, lips, skin). The higher the contrast, the whiter your teeth will seem.
- Genetics determine the specific colour of the various components of your teeth. Each person has their own hue.
- Enamel. The external layer of the tooth, rather white and transparent
- Dentin. The internal layer of the tooth, which is darker than the enamel and yellowish. Dentin can be seen through the enamel. The darker it is, the darker the tooth will appear
Why do teeth change colour?
- Aging: The enamel becomes thinner, revealing more of the underlying coloured dentin. Over time, the tooth appears darker
- Nutrition: Some foods stain teeth
- Coloured foods: Beets, red berries, curry, etc.
- Coloured drinks: Tea, coffee, red wine, brown soft drinks, cranberry juice, etc.
- Some medication
- Injury: An injury can result in nerve damage and lead to the spontaneous devitalization of the tooth. It becomes grey and dark
- Smoking: Smoking stains teeth yellow
- Poor oral hygiene: Poor oral hygiene causes stains to appear on teeth
Two types of teeth whitening products:
- Peroxide-based whitening products bleach teeth and change the colour of the enamel and the dentin
- Whitening agents eliminate surface stains on the enamel but do not change the colour of the tooth. These products are found in some toothpastes and chewing gums
Teeth whitening options:
1) Traditional method: Trays
- The dentist makes trays moulded from impressions of your teeth. The trays are used to evenly spread the whitening gel. Patients use the whitening kit at home (custom-made trays, gel, etc.)
- As part of the treatment, peroxide-based gel is applied inside the trays, which are then placed over the teeth for a predetermined period. Because the trays are custom-made, the active ingredient is spread out evenly and precisely
- The treatment usually lasts between two to four weeks and produces excellent results
2) In-office treatments
- After assessing your mouth and the current colour of your teeth, the dentist cleans the teeth and applies the whitening gel. A blue lamp is used to activate the gel. The procedure can be repeated until the desired hue is achieved
- This option is faster and more efficient than an at-home treatment. The dentist applies the whitening gel precisely, without harming your gums
- For optimal results, in-office treatments are often followed by an at-home treatment. Patients are given custom-made trays and whitening gel
3) Over-the-counter teeth whitening products
Some over-the-counter products contain a whitening agent that can lighten stains. They are less effective though, because they only work on the surface of your teeth.
Other products that contain hydrogen peroxide go deeper. But, because the trays are not custom-made, the product isn’t evenly spread out. Results are not as good, and your gums can become irritated if the peroxide spills over the trays.
No matter which treatment option you choose, teeth whitening is not permanent. Your oral hygiene and lifestyle will affect the duration of the results.
Is it safe?
Studies have shown that most teeth whitening products are harmless. However, they can lead to sensitivity and irritate soft tissue, like your gums. It’s important to follow the instructions and take the necessary precautions when applying the product. Ask your dentist for advice.
- Cracked or worn out teeth
- Gingivitis or periodontitis
- Children under the age of 12, as dentition is not yet fully mature
- Crohn’s disease
- Weakened immune system
- Pregnancy or nursing