Professional tooth whitening – 8 facts you should know

It is not without reason that they call our teeth pearly whites. A bright smile is always deemed more attractive over teeth that are stained yellow or brown. And a lot of times to get that perfect white smile, one has to go in for a professional tooth whitening treatment. But before you go in for one, you need to get some facts straight.

1. Whitening and cleaning aren’t the same.

A lot of times our teeth accumulate deposits and superficial stains which make our teeth look yellowish or dirty. One can get rid of these by going in for a dental cleaning or scaling. Such staining doesn’t require a whitening treatment as such. (Also read: Get whiter teeth with these 8 simple tips)

2. Tooth whitening is basically a chemical process

Bleaching or tooth whitening is basically done using peroxide group of compounds such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These compounds when activated in contact with the surface of a tooth release free radical oxygen, which penetrates the outer layers of the tooth and oxidize the colour producing pigments giving it whiter appearance. Now these treatments may be done in a dental clinic or at home (with products dispensed by your dentist).

3. Whitening can be quick or slow.

Depending on the type of treatment done (in office/at home), bleaching may require from about a one hour office visit to multiple weeks(if done at home) before you get the desired shade of your teeth. (Also read: Get whiter teeth with these 8 simple tips)

4. Whitening isn’t permanent.

Bleaching is not a permanent treatment and its effect may last from about a year to a maximum of three years. With a few precautions on your part and regular touch ups, you may be able to maintain an everlasting white smile.

5. Post whitening care is necessary

Post bleaching, reducing intake of food that could stain teeth, such as tea, coffee, wine, sodas, etc. is necessary. One also needs to keep at bay habits such as smoking or tobacco usage. Apart from that one needs to maintain meticulous oral hygiene by brushing and flossing the teeth regularly.

6. If done right, there are no side effects

When done under trained hands, the side effects are negligible and limit themselves to slight sensitivity of teeth, which may last for about a few hours to a few days post the bleaching session. Sometimes the gums might get irritated due to the seepage of the bleaching agent to the gums.

7. Professional tooth whitening is not for everyone.

You may not be a good candidate for the procedure if:

  • You are child or adolescent (unless recommended by the dentist)
  • You are a pregnant or lactating woman
  • You have teeth that have cavities, gum disease, exposed tooth roots, incomplete dental work or hypersensitivity
  • You have restorations such as bonded fillings, veneers or crowns on the front teeth unless they are to be replaced post bleaching
  • You are allergic to peroxides

8. All types of tooth discolorations not amenable to whitening.

Sometimes a person may have teeth in which the enamel or dentin (tissues which make up a tooth) may be malformed. This may be developmental or due to excessive intake of fluoride in childhood. At other times, prolonged administration of tetracycline (an antibiotic) during childhood may intrinsically discolour one`s teeth to a gray shade. In such cases bleaching will not work and a person will have to look for other options such as veneers or crowns, which one can discuss with a dentist.


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