Because begrimed pearly whites aren’t exactly a distinct characteristic of a so-called “Hollywood smile,” tooth whitening is increasingly becoming a fashionable procedure that it is now a leading cosmetic dental procedure performed by dentists.
There is also an upsurge in over-the-counter kits out in the market today. But before you run off to your dentist or go to your nearest drug store, you may want to take a few minutes to consider a few points on tooth whitening.
All of us were born with generally white teeth. It actually takes years for them to develop discoloration. Components from tobacco, coffee, tea and other foodstuffs penetrate the porous enamel layer of the teeth which change the mineral structure of this layer and cause discoloration.
Chemical agents used in this procedure are carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. These agents act on the enamel layer and cause an oxidation reaction, which in turn bleaches the teeth.
Dentists when administering in-office treatments, use up to 35% hydrogen peroxide gels. Most even apply high intensity light to speed up the reaction. Several shades of whitening can be achieved after less than an hour through this procedure.
Also dentists can adjust the concentration of the whitening agent and modify the treatment to suit each patient’s needs and to achieve the most desirable results.
Over-the-counter whitening kits on the other hand use about 10% hydrogen peroxide equivalent gel that is applied through a mouth-guard or through strips. Since the oxidizing agent is low in concentration, treatment may take up to 14 days.
Visible results may not be achieved until after several days from the start of the treatment. And, results may be less than what is expected since the mouth-guards or strips may not cover all the teeth uniformly.
But the popularity of over-the-counter whitening systems may be attributed to their easy accessibility and low costs. Compared to dentist-administered treatments, which costs a few hundred to a few thousand dollars; most of these kits are available in any drug store and are less than fifty dollars.
Since both treatments use chemical agents, some people may experience irritation on the unprotected gums and soft tissues. Others may experience sensitivity and may even have sharp shooting pains from the teeth during or after treatment.
It is important to note that while these chemical agents are used particularly for their bleaching properties, they can also damage the enamel with excessive application, and can make your teeth even more susceptible to sensitivity.
The key is to always consult your dentist. Your dentist can check for problems such as gum infection and tooth decay, and fix these first before planning and proceeding with any other treatment.
If you are going to use an over-the-counter kit, have your teeth cleaned and any cavity filled. Your dentist can also help should you develop sensitivity and experience any pain during treatment.