Graduations, proms and other end-of-the-school year events are fast approaching. With these events come the all-important photos, many of which will find their way into social media and be distributed to family and friends. You can be guaranteed that in the future, when you least expect it, these photos will be displayed at wedding rehearsal dinners, showers and even wedding receptions. Parents! Why do you do this to your children? Answer: Because it is fun.
Tooth whitening, although in demand all year, tends to become increasingly popular at this time, and rightfully so. Research shows that white smiles have a direct effect on more successful interpersonal interaction, both socially and professionally; and that people with whiter teeth have been viewed as more professional and more confident and tend to be offered more jobs with larger salaries. Whether this is fair or not, many see this as reality.
Many people ask if tooth whitening is safe, how does it work and which methods are useful. Tooth whitening has been around for over 150 years but has been more popular over the last 30 years. The primary ingredient is carbamide peroxide because of a shelf life of one-two years verses the shelf life of one-two months of hydrogen peroxide.
Whitening or “bleaching” process allows the oxidizing agent to enter the enamel and dentin (layer beneath the enamel) of the tooth and through free radical reactions changes the absorption energy of organic molecules, which makes them reflect less light so the tooth appears whiter. Alright, Kris, you do not have to pretend to be so smart. In summary, the whitening material causes chemical reactions to occur to make the tooth look whiter.
When properly done, tooth whitening is very safe. The gum tissue can be “burned” if a high strength (concentration) material is used, making the gum tissue appear white. It changes quickly back to normal color after the tissue is moistened, but the tissue can be sensitive for a few hours. In a dental office, a barrier is put between the teeth and the gum tissue. At home, do not put too much material in the whitening trays so that it extends over the tissue. Tooth sensitivity to whitening, regardless of the condition of the teeth, can only be determined by prior tooth sensitivity. To combat the sensitivity, stop whitening for one-two days; add 5% potassium nitrate with fluoride (Sensodyne, for example) into the whitening trays; adding fluoride gel; or applying amorphous calcium phosphate (MI Paste) onto the teeth.
Methods of whitening are performed in office, at home or combination of both. In the office, higher concentration materials can be used in a controlled environment, and can normally hasten the whitening. This is helpful for those who want quicker results and do not want to do anything at home. Whitening trays are made to help facilitate at-home treatment. High strength gels such as 25% to 38% carbamide peroxide should only be used for about 30 minutes at a time. Lower strength gel is suggested to be worn for at least two hours, but can be effective up to six hours, often used after brushing at night and wearing through sleep. For best results, a combination of both in-office and at-home whitening produces the best of both worlds with quick, yet more sustainable results. Over the counter products, such as Crest White Strips, can be effective, but limitations occur as the strips are not long enough to cover all of the teeth and do not adapt well to crooked teeth. Having to utilize more strips and for a longer time period to get the same results should be a consideration when comparing costs.
To a Brighter Future,