Teeth whitening is an effective procedure to remove stains and discoloration. The procedure brightens the appearance of the teeth, sometimes by as many as 5 to 10 shades in a single session. Undoubtedly, teeth whitening, a cosmetic dental treatment, is gaining immense popularity among patients throughout the world. It is, however, vital to note that teeth whitening is not a one-time procedure. It will need repeated follow-ups at regular intervals.

Causes of Tooth Discoloration

Over the years, your teeth may lose its shine and go from white to yellow for numerous reasons:

  • Age – Our teeth naturally darken as we age. Over time, the outer enamel layer gets thinner due to brushing, as a result of which more of yellowish dentin shows through.
  • Tobacco – Tobacco contains nicotine and tar, both of these chemicals are known to create stains. Tar is naturally dark, and nicotine is colourless until its mixed with oxygen, which then turns yellowish.
  • Coffee/Tea – If you are an excessive coffee or tea drinker, then your teeth are highly susceptible to developing stubborn stains.
  • Medications – Certain antihistamines, antipsychotics, and high blood pressure medications carry a side-effect of tooth darkening. In addition, chemotherapy and head and neck radiation too cause darkness in the teeth.

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Teeth Whitening Procedure

Mainly speaking, there are two types of whitening procedures: vital whitening and non-vital whitening.

  • Vital whitening – The most common type of teeth whitening procedure is vital whitening wherein a gel is applied directly to the tooth surface. This can be done in a dentist’s office or at home. If done at the dentist’s office, the dentist will use a more powerful whitening gel. The procedure in the office will take 30-90 minutes, and you will need 2-4 appointments to fully complete the procedure. But remember, the number of appointments will solely depend upon the method used, the severity of the stains and the final goal of the procedure.
  • Non-vital whitening – In case of a tooth that has had root-canal treatment, the vital whitening procedure may not be suitable as the stain, in this case, is coming from the inside of the tooth. In such cases, non-vital whitening procedure is applicable wherein a dentist will use a different procedure, which allows the tooth whiten from the inside.

What To Remember?

Although it is possible to erase years of stains in a single professional whitening session, whitening is not a permanent solution. The stains will invariably come back, especially if you continue to live a particular lifestyle that includes smoking, drinking copious litres of tea/coffee, or are on some kind of medications. It is a good idea to keep the sources of stains at bay as that way you may not need a re-whitening session for 8 to 10 months.

Risks Involved

Teeth whitening usually does not cause any serious side-effects. Some patients do complain of experiencing sensitivity in their teeth, but that is for a short while. It is also possible to feel mild gum irritation.

Women who are pregnant should avoid this treatment as the effects of the whitening materials on the development of the foetus are unknown.

Frequently Asked Questions: Teeth Whitening

Q1. Do I qualify to sit for teeth whitening session?

If you are experiencing discoloration, then you may be a candidate for professional teeth whitening. However, it is best to schedule an appointment with a dentist to find out if teeth whitening is required or not.

Q2. Will I require any post-treatment care after completing my teeth whitening procedure?

Certainly yes. You will be instructed to avoid drinking highly pigmented beverages such as tea, coffee, and red wine for 24 hours at least. Besides, you may also be given a whitening kit for later use at home.