Teeth Whitening Facts

Published:February 23rd, 2012

© Sander Klaver

Can anyone have their teeth whitened?
No, this treatment isn’t suitable for everyone, and you should always consult your dentist before carrying out any type of teeth whitening. The main reason for this is to make sure your mouth is healthy before whitening. Whitening treatments can contain strong chemicals that could cause damage to unhealthy teeth and gums. Even if your teeth are healthy, there may be other reasons why teeth bleaching won’t work for you.

I want bright, white teeth; will whitening give me this result?
This depends on a number of factors such as age and the natural colour of your teeth. While some people may be able to achieve that Hollywood smile, others won’t be able to. Your dentist will be able to advise you as to what can be achieved. It is important to be realistic about this, and overusing whitening products won’t make your teeth any whiter, but will only bleach out all their natural colour, damaging them in the process.

What causes teeth discolouration?
Teeth can become discoloured for a number of reasons. The main reasons include aging and lifestyle choices. If you like to drink a lot of tea and coffee, or are fond of red wine then your teeth are more likely to become discoloured than someone who doesn’t indulge in these habits.

As we age our teeth naturally darker. The reason for this is because the outer layer of tooth enamel gradually wears away and becomes thinner. This allows more of the underlying dentin layer to shine through. This dentin layer is the natural tooth colour, and is often dictated by genetics.

Other causes of tooth discolouration can be down to use of certain antibiotics such as tetracycline  which produce staining, and root canal treatment and fillings can often create darker areas of tooth structure which will not be affected by bleaching.

I have a lot of crowns, veneers and tooth coloured fillings, will these be whitened?
No. Teeth whitening only affects natural teeth and will not bleach any dental restorations such as porcelain bridges and crowns and fillings. If you want your natural teeth bleached a lighter shade than these restorations then you will either end up with unevenly coloured teeth, or will need to budget for these restorations to be replaced.

Does teeth whitening have any side effects?
Teeth whitening is generally a very safe cosmetic dental procedure and side effects are rare, but they can happen. The most common side effect is to experience increased sensitivity for a few days afterwards, but this should quickly disappear.
Unwanted side effects can arise if you choose to overuse products or leave them on for too long. This can cause permanent damage to the teeth, and could irritate or burn the surrounding gum tissue. It can also cause problems if you use teeth bleaching products on an unhealthy mouth, as cavities and gum disease create openings for the bleaching solution to enter the teeth, potentially causing pain and more damage to the tooth.

How long will the results last?
This depends on your lifestyle, as if you avoid food and drink which could stain your teeth then the effects will last longer. On the other hand, if you eat a lot of highly coloured foods and smoke then your teeth will return to their natural colour a lot sooner. In general the effects should last for around a year before requiring retouching.

About the author

Alison, is a UK born and educated dental professional with over 25 years experience.

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