Teeth whitening is a cosmetic process in which the natural colour of a person's teeth is increased to provide a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.
Many people have turned to have their teeth professionally bleached for this reason. In-office teeth whitening in Melbourne can cost up to $800 per treatment, and at-home kits cost around $100.
Many early tooth whiteners were composed of peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which produces hydrogen peroxide once inside the mouth. This bleaches the small amount of melanin still present in teeth after years of exposure to normal environmental conditions. These can be highly effective treatments, although they are not without side effects.
The peroxide products can cause tooth sensitivity, gum irritation, and damage to the enamel. Carbamide peroxide is an oxidizing agent that breaks down into hydrogen peroxide, urea, ammonia, carbon dioxide gas, water vapour and calcium oxide inside the mouth. It is also more likely to cause tooth sensitivity and gum irritation than its sister product, making it a less popular choice.
Laser treatments have recently been developed to increase the whitening results of hydrogen peroxide products. The laser light increases the release rate of free oxygen radicals, which help break down the extra melanin in teeth. Since this is done without exposing patients to any chemicals, it is a much safer option than the other treatments available.
One drawback to laser teeth whitening is that it can be expensive and require multiple trips to the dentist. The process takes about 30 minutes per session, and since only one or two teeth are treated at a time, there may be as many as five office visits needed to achieve the desired effect. Costs are based on how many millilitres of peroxide or carbamide peroxide is used in each treatment, with most patients requiring about 4-7 ml.
New research suggests that whitening toothpastes may also help whiten teeth over time without any damage to gums or teeth. Whitening toothpastes use similar hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to in-office bleaching treatments but in much smaller concentrations. The paste is rubbed on the teeth for a few minutes each day, and users can expect gradual whitening over several weeks to months.
The major drawback of professional tooth whitening is the cost. In-office treatments run from $500 to over $800 per session and require several best results. At-home kits that work with teeth whitening toothpastes cost between $100 and $200, but additional purchases may be needed as the whitening effect wears off over time.
Teeth whitening treatments may not work for everyone. Some people are more likely to develop tooth sensitivity than others, which can be a significant drawback to the use of peroxide or carbamide peroxide products. People with gum disease should also avoid using these bleaching agents due to the high risk of irritation. Laser treatments are less likely to irritate gums or cause tooth sensitivity, although they are more expensive and may require several visits.
Many people aren't interested in having their teeth professionally whitened. Some individuals prefer the natural look of stained teeth, while others don't see any need to bleach their teeth when simple chemicals can be used for home whitening.
Patients should consult their dentist before beginning any teeth whitening program since not all methods are safe for everyone. Although there are new products on the market, no current whitening option is entirely devoid of risks or side effects.
Most dentists agree that regular brushing and flossing, daily use of fluoride toothpaste, and regular dental cleanings will help keep teeth whiter than they would be without these practices.
In addition, brushing away surface stains and limiting the intake of foods and beverages that stain teeth is usually enough to maintain a bright smile.