The process of teeth whitening is one of applying a chemical to the teeth and keeping it there for a specific amount of time. Active ingredients in teeth whitening products work on lifting stains out of the enamel and providing an overall whiter appearance. There are quite a few teeth whitening products on the market but while similar, they are not the same. There are different methods to whiten as well as different chemicals to use, which can confuse the consumer as to what is the best teeth whitening product. All of the products make the claim to whiten teeth, but some teeth whiteners are more effective than others. So let's take a look at exactly what teeth whitening is.
The foods we consume stain our teeth over time. Coffee, tea, colas and tobacco products are common culprits behind turning teeth yellow and brown over time. Genetics also plays a role in teeth coloration which means that some individuals can have teeth that look stained. Externally caused stains respond to tooth whiteners; genetic discoloration may or may not whiten.
Teeth Whitening at Home
Several teeth whitening methods are on the market for do-it-yourself whitening. The effectiveness of some is not clear whereas others show results time and time again. The options for teeth whitening at home are:
- Dental trays. The user places a plastic tray holding the whitening product onto the teeth and leaves it there for a specified time. Trays come in thermoplastic for molding inside the mouth, boil trays where the tray is placed in boiling water and formed in the mouth, and stock size trays with no shaping involved.
- Brush-on solutions. This is the simplest of all of the home whitening products. The solution is simply brushed onto the teeth and the user keeps it on overnight. The solution is easily washed or brushed off the next morning.
- Whitening strips. Strips are made from a plastic film and carry the coating on one side. The user presses the strip firmly against the teeth and leaves it there for a specified period of time. It is important to ensure full contact between the strip and teeth so as not to miss an area.
- Toothpastes. Pastes use an abrasive product similar to what is used by the dentist during a cleaning. There is a small amount of whitening product in these toothpastes, but there is not enough to make an appreciable difference in tooth color. Instead, the abrasives do all of the work in removing stains and they are effective.
Teeth Whitening Products
A majority of teeth whitening products use one of two types of peroxides. Hydrogen peroxide is more commonly used in dental offices and Carbamide peroxide (Urea Peroxide) is found in the do-it-yourself kits found on the shelves. Both work on lifting stains, but there is a fundamental difference between the two. Hydrogen peroxide is not as stable as Carbamide peroxide (Urea Peroxide), meaning it deteriorates quickly on the shelf if not used by a certain time. Carbamide peroxide (Urea Peroxide) is more stable and does not deteriorate nearly as fast as hydrogen peroxide.
Teeth whitening products work on the two types of stains found on teeth: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic designates stains that are on the surface of the enamel. Toothpastes are highly effective at attacking extrinsic stains. However, they are not able to reach and affect stains that are underneath the enamel. These stains are known as intrinsic. They are inside the tooth and show through the enamel.
One of the main active ingredients in our teeth whitening products is Carbamide peroxide (Urea Peroxide), which is an oxidizer that is effective as a disinfectant and bleaching agent. When used in TheraBreath teeth whitening products the Carbamide peroxide (Urea Peroxide) removes staining within the teeth enamel.
Whitening teeth also makes teeth sensitive for a period of time after the application has been removed. The very action that lifts stains causes the sensitivity. Dentinal tubules in the tooth extend from the nerve to the external surface. Normally, there is fluid inside of the tubules and when the fluid moves around, it causes sensitivity. Minerals found in saliva plug the external end of the tubes, stopping movement and resultant sensitivity. The bleaching action of the peroxide dissolves the mineral plugs, allowing movement of the fluid and causing sensitivity. These problems are normal and will go usually away after a short period of time. Solutions are available that lessen the sensitivity as well as shortening the amount of time that the sensation is felt.
It is not unusual to have white spots on the gums after a treatment. When peroxide comes into contact with the gums, it bleaches the area and causes soreness. This is also a temporary discomfort, but can be treated by applying liquid vitamin E onto the affected area. The problem can be avoided by applying Vaseline to the gums before treatment, or wiping off excess bleach after a tray has been applied. Also, spit out any bleach remaining in the mouth after a treatment to avoid contact with the gums.
The overall effect of teeth whitening products last for quite some time provided the user stays away from consuming agents that stain. Not changing consumption habits leads to teeth returning to the state they were in before treatment. Teeth may also need to be touched up from time to time.
Users of teeth whitening products state they receive a lot of satisfaction from having bright teeth. The process, while time consuming, takes a relatively short time out of your day to achieve results that last for quite some time.