GUM SAFETY: THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT TEETH WHITENING PROCEDURES
A set of gleaming pearly whites usually come at the top of list of common requests put towards dentists all over the world. A nice set of white teeth can enhance your smile and is a sign of good health. Healthy human teeth with its porcelain like covering of enamel, is usually gleaming white at the beginning of our lives. But modern lifestyle and diet poses significant challenges to the tooth enamel. Tobacco, alcohol, soft drinks, tea coffee, acidic foods and poor oral hygiene can all stain your teeth and rob them of their natural luster and color. There are several teeth whitening procedures available for those looking to improve the color of their teeth.
Main types of discoloration and their causes
Tooth discoloration can either be intrinsic or extrinsic depending on whether the stains are on the exterior of the tooth or the interior. Depending on the type of stain, treatment options can vary from a fairly rigorous brushing and scaling to more intensive bleaching or even use of veneers in the event of extremely stubborn intrinsic stains. If minor stains are left untreated for a long term, they can even penetrate into the interior of the teeth and become more severe.
Teeth do invariably get darker as we age due to normal wear and tear. Younger the teeth are, the better they will respond to whitening procedures. Teeth can also get discolored due to impacts and trauma from accidents falls etc. They may not respond to regular whitening procedures. Discoloration can be accelerated by diet, alcohol, smoking, and due to side effects of certain drugs. The severity and extent of the damage to the tooth will determine the course of treatment.
Teeth whitening procedures: Common side effects
Currently in Australia, different whitening options are available. They include:
- Over the counter (OTC) teeth whitening kits
- Take Home whitening kits prescribed by dentists
- In-office procedure at the dentists’.
All three options available for whitening your teeth follow the same basic principle: a bleaching agent or gel (usually hydrogen peroxide/carbamine peroxide) is applied on the teeth. The duration of application differs depending on the concentration of the gel used. Gums and soft tissue have to be protected from the contact with the bleaching agents.
And the side-effects associated with bleaching are also common for all three, since a bleaching agent is the main chemical involved. Common side effects may include:
- Gum Irritation
- Increased teeth sensitivity, especially to temperature
- Throat irritation
- Multi-color / “Technicolor” teeth
OTC kits vs. a visit to the Dentist: Costs vs. risks
Store bought over the counter whitening kits are the cheapest option available. They use a lower strength peroxide gel along with “stock” or “one size fits all” trays to cover the teeth and protect your gums. The stock tray provided with the kit may not be a perfect fit for everyone, and can lead to leakage of the gel on to the gums. Since the gel uses a lower concentration of peroxide, severe side effects are not likely. But on the flipside, you won’t get any stunning results either. Also, extended use of these kits without expert medical guidance may lead to wearing down of the enamel and cause more harm than good.
A dentist is best qualified to advise you about the option most suitable for your teeth. Prescription whitening kits are similar to OTC kits, but with the added advantage of custom trays that are designed for your teeth. And since they also use lower concentration of peroxide, risk of side effects is minimal. Under the guidance of a dentist, medium term use of such kits may provide good results.
A bleaching procedure at the dentist office will undoubtedly be more expensive that other options at hand, but will get you provide better and long lasting results, while providing the best protection for your gums and teeth. Since these procedures use gels with higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide, the whitening effect is much more than what OTC kits can provide. Higher concentration gels obviously increase the risk of severe reactions, but since the procedure is carried out by qualified professionals, there is minimal risk of exposure of gums to the gel and any resultant side effects.
It is always better to make an informed choice
Whitening procedures are not universally suitable. Pregnant women and young children should not go for this treatment. And for others, results can vary depending on the condition of your teeth, any sensitivity issues and history of any past dental procedures performed. Consulting your dentist is the best choice you could make for the health of teeth and gums in the long run.
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