Yellowing of teeth will occur as a normal part of ageing - for everybody.
Stains can also build up on teeth over time due to the foods and drinks we consume each day. While smokers can develop darker tooth discolourations termed tobacco tars which are tenacious and difficult to address.
If you feel unhappy about the appearance of your smile, lightening the color of your teeth may boost your confidence in professional or social settings and elevate the way you feel about your self, your teeth and your smile.
Professionally bleaching your teeth is a very conservative way to improve the colour of your teeth. The decision to whiten one’s teeth is subjective and very much based on individual preferences. Having whitened teeth is not essential or necessary for oral health. But whitening your teeth may enhance your motivations for caring for your teeth - definitely a plus!
At Melbourne Dentistry, we can recommend a specific approach for whitening your teeth following a thorough assessment and diagnosis of your tooth discolouration to help you realise your whitening goals.
Types Of Tooth Discolouration And Causes
Diagnosis of the cause of tooth discoloration is the most important determinant of success for any tooth whitening procedure. It may influence decisions regarding bleaching products and effective treatment options.
Tooth discolouration may range from yellow and brown stains to grey or black and could be associated with enamel surface irregularities.
Tooth discolouration may be classified into 3 categories - extrinsic discolouration (external stains from the effects of smoking, drinks such as wine, tea and coffee or highly coloured foods), intrinsicdiscolouration (staining incorporated internally within the tooth matrix, from a genetic condition, or medications), and age related discolouration (colour changes from the internal deposition of more tooth dentine which occurs naturally or in response to stimuli such as decay or tooth clenching, over time).
Factors To Consider When Deciding To Whiten Your Teeth
Bleaching is an inexact science and whitening results may be unpredictable. It is important to recognise that for some patients, their teeth may not respond to the bleaching process to meet their expectations.
The condition of the teeth and mouth is important - both to optimise your whitening results and reduce complications or discomfort during treatment (for example, untreated gingivitis or gum disease may make bleaching challenging as the crevicular fluid which oozes from inflamed gums will inactivate the bleach; gum shrinkage may also mean tooth roots are exposed leaving patients with more significant tooth sensitivity during treatment; while untreated dental decay can also cause sensitivity issues).
The presence of existing restorations may influence what can be achieved (restorations will not change colour with the procedure), or restorations matching your original tooth shade may need to be replaced once teeth are whitened, to match the new tooth shade.
Your willingness to take the time to complete the course of treatment as advised, comply with recommended maintenance programs, and modify behaviours affecting tooth colour to sustain your results.
Preparing Your Teeth For Bleaching
Your mouth should be healthy and free of dental problems before teeth bleaching is started to help ensure bleaching is undertaken safely, comfortably and effectively. Having a comprehensive dental examination (to bite-wing radiographic standard), followed by teeth cleaning prior to commencing treatment is generally recommended.
Teeth Bleaching – The Process, The Options
Teeth bleaching may be undertaken on vital (alive) teeth or non-vital (dead or root canal filled) teeth. Non-vital bleaching of root canal treated teeth is primarily an in-office procedure. Vital teeth bleaching may be done as a take-home (vacuum-formed tray) process, an in-office (power bleaching) procedure or a combination of the two.
At our practice, we use only high quality TGA approved bleaching products. For bleaching treatments of vital teeth, we recommend and use the following professional tooth whitening systems:
SDI - polaoffice+ in-office whitening and poladay take-home whitening, and,
Philips Oral Health Care - Philips Zoom! WhiteSpeed in-office whitening (using the light/lamp technology), Philips Zoom! DayWhite and Philips Zoom! NiteWhite take-home whitening kits.
For the internal bleaching of root canal filled teeth, we use ADM Odontobleach once an appropriate seal is placed over the existing root canal filling material, under rubber dam isolation.
It may often be the case that more than one type/or cause of staining may affect teeth. If this occurs, treatment approaches recommended for whitening may involve more than one process (for example, different types of bleaching, microabrasion, and/or restorative treatments) to help achieve the desired result.
Side-Effects Of Teeth Bleaching
There are a number of potential side effects with teeth bleaching (even when the process is undertaken correctly and safely). For vital bleaching, tooth sensitivity is the top one. This may be quite uncomfortable but is transient, lasting for about 1 or 2 days after bleaching.
Teeth Whitening - The Result
Your immediate post treatment tooth shade will reverse slightly in the first 2-3 weeks after bleaching, as the tooth enamel rehydrates after the process is stopped. Tooth colour then stabilizes and for most people, the improvement may generally be maintained for about 3-5 years. In some cases, the whitened shade may be maintained permanently.
Follow-Up And Maintenance Of Teeth Whitening
A consistent dental hygiene routine, including both flossing and brushing, along with a modification of the behaviours that may have contributed to the tooth discolouration (avoiding staining agents such as cigarettes, red wine, tea or coffee) will help maintain whitening results. Periodic bleaching touch ups, may be required to help you maintain your enhanced tooth shade over the longer term.
Mini bleaching booster kits from SDI Pola and Philips Zoom! are available for take home booster treatments when appropriate, to prolong whitening results.
Too much of a good thing, may, sometimes, be bad. So how much bleaching is too much? The answer depends on the state of your teeth, the bleaching products used, past whitening experience and results, your expectations and lifestyle behaviours.
We won’t ever get your teeth refrigerator white – it is not going to happen! However, overly frequent bleaching, in inappropriate doses, for long periods of time, may lead to undesirable results and damage to teeth and gums.
Gums consistently irritated by bleaching chemicals may recede. Over-bleaching may result in opaque and lifeless looking enamel or teeth with white spots due to a break down of enamel proteins. Over-bleaching may even, very occasionally, have the reverse effect, leave your teeth with a darker appearance. Depending on the frequency of bleaching, teeth may be left overly sensitive and brittle. Enamel may also be eroded away by cheap bleaching chemicals (containing acids), and once enamel is gone, it is gone forever.
Considering your expectations, we can advise you on product choices, teeth bleaching techniques and frequency to recommend a safe and effective teeth whitening program for you.