Dental bleaching, also known as tooth whitening, is a widely employed procedure in cosmetic dentistry. The goal of this procedure is to revitalize the luster and brightness of the teeth through the use of chemical agents. In most cases, hydrogen peroxide is the active chemical; carbamide peroxide may be used for application, but it soon degrades into hydrogen peroxide while inside the mouth.
The bleaching activity of the peroxide is typically sped up through the use of focused lamps/lasers while inside the dentist’s office. These imbue higher amounts of energy into the peroxide particles for faster and more precise results, but the technician must be careful to not aggravate the tooth tissue. This may cause an inflammatory response and heightened tooth sensitivity after the procedure.
Risks of Teeth Whitening
The aesthetics of the results cannot always be guaranteed, especially if the patient has had previous fillings with tooth-colored ceramics. In these cases, alternate methods of whitening my need to be implemented. Over-whitening, also called hyperodonto-oxidation, can occur if too much peroxide is utilized over too short of a period of time. Finally, patients who have overly sensitive teeth are at risk for post-procedural discomfort even more so than the average patient.
A teeth whitening procedure is inherently a risky practice. Systematically speaking, it consists of placing toxic, degrading materials into a vulnerable orifice of the body, very close to easily damageable tissue. This leads to chemical burns being the chief concern of dentists while they apply the peroxide, as contact with the gums can be quite hazardous and may get bleached themselves.
Teeth Whitening Technology
Improvements continue to be made in this field of dentistry. The lamps used to accelerate the bleaching process while in-office are starting to be replaced by higher precision lasers. One such laser, the argon laser, seems to be effective at both hastening the whitening while also reducing the risks of chemical side effects. Also, lasers tend to exude less UV radiation and heat when used, allowing a reduction in tooth sensitivity issues.
Advantages of In-Office Teeth Whitening
In-office teeth whitening, also known as chairside bleaching, takes place during a series of appointments at a dentist's office. There are many advantages of in-office teeth whitening over take-home whitening, such as:
- Faster procedure through the use of lamps/lasers in the office
- Professional supervision during dental bleaching
- Safe and precise Teeth Whitening
- Lasers reduce tooth sensitivity
Home Teeth Whitening Kits
Various “at-home” products are featured in the teeth-whitening industry, such as whitening toothpastes and bleaching strips. Although based on the same science as professional bleaching, the bleaching strips’ concentrations tend to be much lower than in commercial products, thus leading to a lower risk of toxicity but longer duration of treatment. Typical kits require nightly use of the product for one to two weeks until desired results are obtained, as opposed to a one hour visit to the dentist. The toothpastes generally contain special minerals designed to erode the colored food particles and stains on the tooth surface during daily brushing; toothpaste does not alter the intrinsic shade of the teeth whatsoever.