How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

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It's no secret that a bright, white smile is considered attractive and helps people feel more confident. That's why so many people turn to teeth whitening treatments to achieve their desired results. But what exactly is teeth whitening, and how does it work?

To understand how to whiten teeth as effectively as possible, let's start with a little science. Then, keep reading to find out.

Your teeth are made up of two layers: an inner dentin layer and a hard outer enamel layer that protects them. When you put food, drink coffee, or other substances in your mouth, another layer builds on top of the enamel layer. In essence, the foreign substance builds up and forms a pellicle film on top of the enamel layer. The pellicle coating acts as a barrier between the enamel and the outside world. It minimizes the amount of acid produced by plaque bacteria and inhibits germs from penetrating the enamel and gum tissue.

When you eat acidic foods, the acids destroy some of the pellicle coatings, causing the enamel to erode or wear away. The enamel thins and becomes less resistant to harm over time. The enamel eventually wears away completely, revealing the softer dentin beneath.

This process occurs naturally over time, but if you want to whiten your teeth faster, you can employ various methods. For example, chemicals are used in some ways to remove the pellicle coating, while mechanical methods are used in others. In any case, the purpose is to make the enamel appear brighter and whiter than it was previously.

Teeth Whitening Work diagram

Toothpaste That Whitens Teeth

Whitening toothpaste works by removing surface stains on teeth rather than stains deep into the structure. Unfortunately, they do this by being more abrasive than other toothpaste, which is why your dentist may discourage you from using whitening toothpaste if you have complained of tooth sensitivity. More than anything, toothpaste is good for preventing stains, not actually removing them or whitening your teeth.

Over-the-Counter Whitening Strips and Gels

There are different types of whitening products, such as whitening dentifrices, trays, whitening strips, paint-on brush applications, and light-activated tooth-whitening systems. Whitening strips were introduced into the market in the late 1980s. They deliver a thin layer of peroxide gel on plastic strips shaped to fit onto the buccal surfaces of the teeth. There are a variety of white strip products on the market with varying instructions. Instructions vary depending on the strength of the peroxide. Follow the directions on the product carefully. Initial results are seen in a few days, and final results last about 4 months. An entire course takes between 10 and 14 days. Tooth lightening can be seen in several days, and this method can lighten the teeth by 1 or 2 shades. There are some newer whitening strip products that require only one 30-minute application per day that have the same whitening endpoint as the two-a-day products.

Whitening gels are peroxide-based gels applied with a small brush directly to the surface of the teeth. Manufacturers' instructions are usually twice-a-day applications for 14 days. Like the whitening strips, the teeth can usually be lightened by 1 or 2 shades.

Rinses for Teeth Whitening

Whitening rinses contain oxygen sources such as hydrogen peroxide to react with the chromogens. Manufacturers' instructions are for twice a day rinsing for 60 seconds each. The most common side effect is staining the tongue and lips due to the high concentration of peroxide.

Teeth Whitening Treatments

It is a simple procedure to whiten your teeth. One of two bleaches is used in whitening products (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide). These bleaches break down stains into smaller bits, reducing the intensity of the colour and brightening your teeth. Teeth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dentistry procedures because it is affordable, effective, and quick.

You don't have to give up your favourite foods and drinks to get whiter teeth, thankfully. Today, you can choose from a variety of efficient teeth whitening products. In addition, you may lighten your teeth quickly and efficiently with in-office treatments and at-home teeth whitening kit.

Whitening Side Effects

Teeth Sensitivity: Commonly reported tooth whitening includes increased tooth sensitivity and mild gum irritation. What happens when the peroxide in the whitener gets through the enamel to the soft layer of dentin and irritates the nerve of your tooth. Bleaching can cause a temporary increase in sensitivity to temperature, pressure, and touch. Tooth sensitivity often occurs during the early stages of the bleaching treatment. This is likeliest to occur during in-office whitening, where higher-concentration bleach is used. Some individuals experience spontaneous shooting pains down the middle of their front teeth. Individuals at greatest risk for whitening sensitivity are those with gum recession.

Gum irritation: The peroxide in whitening strips might also irritate your gums resulting from the bleach concentration or from contact with the trays. This frequently occurs when the strips are worn incorrectly or for an extended period of time. Gum irritation after teeth whitening begins within a day of the treatment and can last a few days.

Uneven whitening: People who have had dental restorations before whitening therapy may experience uneven whitening, also known as "technicolour" teeth. Restorations such as bonding dental crowns or veneers are not affected by bleach and therefore maintain their default colour while the surrounding teeth are whitened.

Now that we've covered how it works, It's important to note that teeth whitening is not permanent – your teeth may start to yellow again over time. You need to understand the procedure fully, the potential result, what it will involve and what it will require from you before you consider intrinsic whitening of your dentine and enamel. If you are looking for a long-term solution, consult with your dentist about other options.

Have you tried teeth whitening before? What was your experience like? Please let us know in the comments section below!


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