There are several forms of whitening, depending on what you are looking for and what outcome you hope to achieve. Generally, teeth fall into a “yellow” or “grey” shade category. Several factors are involved in the appearance of tooth shade such as dark fillings, skin tone, ageing and surface stains. Surface stains do not affect the actual shade of the tooth. They are stains that accumulate on the tooth surface that can be removed at a dental cleaning. Surface stains can accumulate from the consumption of foods and drinks that are dark in colour, such as coffee, tea, and red wine. Smoking can also contribute to surface staining.
There are products available to prevent the build-up of surface stains. These products typically include toothpaste, mouth rinse and chewing gum. These products have more abrasive particles that aid in abrading away stain that accumulates on the surface of teeth. Because the particles in these products are just slightly more abrasive than in regular products, they are not likely to cause any damage to tooth structure. Surface whitening products can help to prevent staining and potentially reduce current staining but are not an alternative to professional dental cleanings.
Whitening can also be administered to lighten the internal shade of teeth, which is called internal staining. Although there are other whitening products available, the most common form of this type of whitening treatment is peroxide based. Typically, internal whitening can be done at home in tray form or in the office.
At home trays – For this method of whitening, trays are fabricated in a dental office specifically of your teeth, and you will be sent home with the whitening agent, the trays and instructions for use. This type of whitening you will administer yourself at home over a period of time.
In office whitening- This type of whitening can be administered at your dental office all in one shot. Usually, a UV light will be used while the whitening agent is sitting on the teeth to speed up the effect of the peroxide.
For both methods of whitening, the procedure and recommendations should be discussed in detail with your dentist or dental hygienist before beginning treatment. It is always recommended to use a sensitivity toothpaste for a couple of weeks prior, during and after a whitening treatment to reduce sensitivity. Tooth whitening is safe when administered correctly and for the recommended length of time.