We all want to be able to look our best, especially when it comes to our teeth. Taking good care of your teeth will ensure they are strong and will serve you long into old age, but even well-kept teeth can become slightly discoloured from the regular everyday activities we all do.
Most discolouration is a cosmetic issue that doesn’t affect the strength, durability, or function of our teeth, but none-the-less is a problem many of us want to address. Yellow or discoloured teeth can have a big impact on the way we feel about ourselves, affecting our self-confidence. People with badly stained teeth often feel self-conscious about talking face-to-face with others, laughing, and even eating out for fear that the discolouration will reflect poorly on them and their hygiene routines. It’s important to note, though, that discolouration is rarely related to oral hygiene, and even those that have a strict oral health routine, cleaning their teeth, mouth-washing, and flossing regularly, can suffer from staining.
What is Teeth Whitening
Teeth whitening is the process of lightening the colour of your teeth to reduce or remove staining. There are two main types of staining that can happen to our teeth: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic staining is the most common type of staining and is caused by staining pigments, usually from strongly coloured food and drink (e.g coffee, tea, wine) or tobacco use, build up in the protective layer coating the tooth’s enamel. Intrinsic staining is when the staining makes it past the protective layers and stains the tooth itself. It is less common, and harder to treat, but whitening can still address the problem. The staining we all experience as we get older is usually a mixture of extrinsic and intrinsic staining as the coating and enamel wear down making it easier for staining agents to affect the tooth.
There are a number of different methods available to whiten your teeth depending on the extent of the staining, your budget, and the speed and type of results you are looking for.
Whitening toothpaste is the most common method of keeping your teeth sparkling and white. They generally don’t work against severe staining and are instead better suited to preventing staining from building up to noticeable levels with everyday use. Depending on the brand, whitening toothpastes either work by mild chemical agents or gentle polishing particles.
Bleaching works by applying a chemical bleaching agent to your teeth, usually in multiple sessions, over the course of a couple of weeks. The chemical agent reacts with the staining particles to lighten the colour of your teeth. At-home kits are limited by law to a lower strength for safety than those available in dental clinics and therefore have a lesser effect.
Laser whitening uses a similar bleaching agent to bleaching your teeth, but the process is expedited by a laser light treatment. This method can only be conducted in a dental clinic. It is the fastest and strongest treatment available, offering a stark difference in just a single one-hour session.
Why You Should Have Your Teeth Whitened By a Dentist
While many at-home teeth whitening options are available to purchase, you should always seek the help and advice of your dentist before making any choices. With the proper care, attention, and understanding of the different techniques required for different staining situations, you can risk permanent damage to your teeth, mouth, or gums due to chemical burns from the bleaching agents. A dental professional will also be best able to advise you on how to whiten your teeth when you have crowns, veneers, or braces without damaging them.
Teeth whitening conducted by a dental clinic is also vastly superior to the at-home kits available in terms of the results you can expect and the speed of the procedure. Many people look to have their teeth whitened before a big event, but at-home kits can take weeks of repeated usage to show moderate results. A professional teeth whitening service provided by your dentist can show much better results in just a single session with almost no risk to your oral health.