Regardless of how well you care for your teeth, it is inevitable that, over time, some yellowing or discoloration will occur. This gradual change can be caused by aging, substances that stain your teeth (such as coffee and tobacco), excessive fluoride, or the deterioration of a tooth’s nerve. A tooth whitening treatment can be performed either as an at-home, dentist-supervised process or in the dentist’s chair. While neither of these methods stops future discoloration, these treatments bring about whiter teeth and help create a more vibrant smile.
The most popular method of whitening teeth is the at-home, dentist-supervised option. During your visit to the dentist, he or she takes a mold of your teeth and creates a comfortable, customized mouth tray. The mouth tray holds a mild solution whose main ingredient is carbamide peroxide, a substance that reacts with water to release a non-toxic bleaching element (hydrogen peroxide). The mouth tray is placed inside the mouth, and sits only against the teeth, thereby avoiding contact with the gums. Patients can choose either to wear the mouth tray throughout the night or for stretches that last from two to four hours.
When using the at-home treatment, the patient’s teeth may feel a heightened, but temporary, sensitivity. The gums may also feel more sensitive or burn slightly. Not all people experience the quality of whiteness they had hoped for on their first treatment and they may require a “touch-up” treatment. Whitening treatments begin to fade in one to four years. It should be noted that tooth whitening treatments have no effect on the artificial materials used for bonds, veneers, or capped teeth.