How Safe is Tooth Whitening?
You want to flash your pearly whites—only they’re not so pearly just yet. Coffee wine, soda, and cigarettes can slowly cause your teeth to yellow over time. But it’s not just what you’re drinking and what you’re smoking that’s causing this injustice. Tooth enamel naturally thins as you age causing teeth to appear more yellow over the years. Here’s everything you need to know about tooth whitening, and how to do it safely.
The History of Tooth Whitening
Discolored teeth is a problem humanity has faced for quite some time. In fact, there is even evidence to suggest that the ancient Egyptians would use a mixture of ground pumice stone and vinegar for tooth whitening nearly 4,000 years ago. Then, much like today, white teeth were a sign of beauty and wealth.
The Romans also took the pains to whiten their teeth. However, they did so by using ammonia…from their own urine. Thankfully, in the mid 20th century, it was discovered that the peroxide so commonly used as an oral antiseptic had the happy side effect of whitening the teeth.
In the 1980’s the movement went wild. Trays filled with peroxide were mass marketed for teeth whitening purposes, and that trend has continued into the modern age. Today there are so many teeth whitening products on the market that it’s hard to tell what works or what’s considered safe.
According to the American Dental Association, there are two ways to whiten your teeth: bleaching agents containing peroxide and whitening toothpaste.
Peroxide-Based Bleaching Agents for Teeth Whitening
Peroxide-containing bleaching agents are exactly what they sound like: bleaching products that contain carbamide peroxide. The only difference between at home and in office bleaching products is the percentage of peroxide used.
Most bleaching products designed for at-home use contain 10% carbamide peroxide and are applied over the course of several days or weeks. The bleaching products utilized in a dental office contain 25%-40% carbamide peroxide and are applied over the course of a few hours— usually with the accompaniment of a light or laser to further accelerate the process.
Instruments and Chemical Agents for Removing Surface Stains
Though peroxide physically changes the color of the teeth, there is still the need to remove intrinsic and extrinsic stains from the teeth.
Intrinsic stains are when the layer beneath your enamel (known as dentin) becomes stained through physical trauma to the mouth, antibiotics taken as a child, or poor mouth health. These stains cannot be removed easily with at-home whitening kits but can be treated by a dentist using either a peroxide-based treatment or by bonding or capping the tooth.
Extrinsic stains or surface stains are when the outermost layer of your teeth (known as the enamel) becomes stained due to eating and drinking highly pigmented food or beverages. These stains can be removed easily with whitening toothpaste. Whitening toothpaste removes surface stains through gentle abrasion or chemical chelation.
For stains that can’t be removed with toothpaste alone, well, that’s what dental cleanings are for. Using special tools and techniques, dentists and dental hygienists can remove your surface stains.
Contact our office to learn more about how to brighten your smile.
March 7, 2018
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