Dark, severely stained teeth can cause low self-esteem and loss of self-confidence. This is especially so in today's society where everyone appears to have a sparkling white smile. It seems that success in one's professional, social, and personal life is impossible without a set of lovely pearly whites constantly revealed in a bright smile. What should you do if your teeth fall short of the whiteness expectations? You should not despair but instead ask your dentist about which tooth whitening treatment is the best for you.
Whitening: How It Works
Several techniques for whitening are available-all of which involve the use of either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is stronger and works faster. Carbamide peroxide is weaker and takes more time to produce results. Both solutions work by removing stains that can cause tooth discoloration and leave teeth looking dull and lackluster. There are essentially three methods for administering the whitening solution-an in-office treatment, a take-home prescription whitening kit, or an over-the-counter whitening product.
In-office whitening involves the application of high-concentration peroxide gel in a carefully controlled manner. In order to speed up the whitening process, many dentist offer "laser" whitening, such as BriteSmile or Zoom teeth whitening. During this treatment, a high-intensity light (not actually a laser) is applied to the mouth. This treatment does not cause any pain or significant discomfort, and the light is completely harmless to the surrounding tissues. These treatments are sometimes followed up with take-home trays to extend the whitening results.
Dentist-Dispensed Take-Home Whitening Kits
If you are a heavy smoker or your teeth are very dark due to genetic factors, you might be better off by using a take-home whitening kit. These are highly customized treatments consisting of several trays prefilled with a hydrogen peroxide solution. The concentration level of the solution is lower in take-home kits than in in-office treatments. However, the solution can be applied for a longer period of time and may provide even better results than in-office treatments. Your dentist will explain exactly how to use the trays and monitor your progress. As a result, you will be able to achieve a dramatically whiter smile.
Over-the-Counter Whitening Products
Over-the-counter products are similar to dentist-dispensed take-home kits, but they are less customized and contain lower concentrations of peroxide solution. Typically, they contain peroxide on strips or in one-size-fits-all trays. Some involve the use of paint-on applicators. Because they contain lower concentrations of peroxide and less customized applicators, they are considered less effective than in-office or take-home kits provided by dentists.
What if Nothing Works?
On rare occasions, neither the in-nor nor the take-home whitening treatments can help the patient lighten the shade of their teeth. For instance, tetracycline stains are resistant to hydrogen peroxide. As a result, they do not respond to traditional whitening treatments. However, even patients with tetracycline-stained teeth can achieve a beautiful, white smile with porcelain veneers. Veneers are thin porcelain shells that cover the unsightly tooth surfaces and provide a dramatic appearance improvement. Dentists sometimes also use veneers for patients who have received tooth implants prior to undergoing traditional teeth whitening. This is because whitening will not change the color of the artificial teeth. Instead, their color must be adjusted by placing porcelain veneers over the front surface.