A look at Tooth Whitening and Polishing
There is a really big event coming up in your life. Amy, who you’ve known since High School, has asked you to be a bridesmaid at her upcoming wedding. You are super excited and want to look your very best for the big day. Your best friend is counting on you and you don’t want to let her down. Everything seems to be under control. You have already picked out a beautiful dress to wear as well as a dazzling pair of shoes. And your appointment at the hair salon is booked for next week. “Yes! I’ve got this!” you proudly tell yourself and just about anybody else who will listen. But, not so fast.
Your wake-up call comes early the next morning as you are brushing your teeth. Despite brushing no less than three times a day, you notice that your teeth are badly stained. There is a distinct and unsettling yellowish shade on some of the teeth. You brush a little harder, but to no effect. This is not good. At the wedding, you want to make the best impression possible, especially on all the good looking guys who are going to be at the reception. “How can my teeth look like this?” you exclaim to no one in particular. “I go for check-ups at least once a year and haven’t had a cavity since I was sixteen. I even brush and floss at the office. What am I doing wrong?”
Actually, you are not guilty of anything at all. You have been taking care of your teeth, just like you’re supposed to. Feeling frustrated, you pick up your cell and dial the number of your Dental professional. And that’s going to be a game-changer! By scheduling a visit asap with your Dentist, you can put a little sparkle back into your smile, a lot sooner than you think. You will be ready for that Wedding reception after all. The good news is that you are not alone in this predicament. Millions of Americans have similar problems with the color of their teeth. In fact, tooth whitening (also known as bleaching), is one of the most popular cosmetic dental treatments in America. Surveys show that, at one time or another, almost 90% of patients will, at one time or another, request tooth whitening from their family dentist. So don’t be so hard on yourself. You are in good company. Chances are that your next door neighbor has had his or her teeth whitened, at some point in the past.
Why do teeth become Stained and Discolored?
Age has a great deal to do with the overall appearance of one’s teeth. You do not have to be well into your senior years to have yellow or badly stained teeth. That is a miss-conception. After our baby teeth fall out, the new adult teeth that come in have an inborn color that can range from yellowish brown to a not so pretty green-grey shade. This is where something called Dentin, comes into play. Dentin is the softer area of your teeth, located directly below the hard, white outer shell known as the enamel. During the passage of time, the outer layer of enamel gets thinner with brushing, so more of the dentin color shows through. This is a natural progression and there is not a whole lot that you can do to prevent this from happening. Your genes affect the thickness and smoothness of the outer enamel. Thinner enamel allows more of the Dentin to show through to the surface. When light reflects on your teeth, the discoloration or staining is magnified.
As teenagers, we’re good to go. Unless they are models or in show business, very few teens want or need a whitening treatment. However, things change once we get into our early twenties. When we hit our twenties, most people’s teeth begin to display a light yellow cast. By the time that we reach our forties and fifties, that yellowish shade turns decidedly nastier. It gives way to a dark brownish color. Sometimes it can even turn grey.
Besides the natural process of aging, other stain factors that can come into play are general wear and tear such as grinding your teeth and chewing. Beverages that we all love like coffee, tea, cola drinks and red wine are major villains when it comes to causing tooth discoloration. These drinks contain really intense color pigments, the residue of which attaches to our enamel.
Certain foods can also be a nuisance when you are trying to keep those pearly whites as bright as possible. Surprisingly enough, certain good for you foods are the biggest offenders. Fruits and Veggies, like carrots, beets, purple grapes and oranges contribute to staining. Fruits with high acidic content such as grapefruit and mangoes can also cause enamel erosion. After performing a whitening treatment, your Dental professional will, more than likely, ask you to change some of your eating habits. Lessening your consumption of dark-colored liquids will help you to maintain your bright, new smile. And, of course, brushing and flossing regularly.
Mom and Dad always warned you that smoking was bad for you. Looking to impress the ladies at Happy Hour, after work? Well, if you smoke, then you’re plain out of luck. Not only does smoking cause bad breath, the tar and nicotine that is found in tobacco creates some stubborn, long-lasting stains on your teeth. The brownish deposits actually soak right into your teeth, enveloping the enamel in some really gross discoloration.
Other causes of stained teeth are medication and trauma. The darkening of one’s teeth can be an unfortunate side effect of antihistamines and High blood pressure medication. Children who have been exposed to Tetracycline when their teeth are in their early formative years, may also experience dark, brown, ribbon-like stains. Accidents at home or on the street can cause severe trauma to your mouth. The resulting chips and cracks in your teeth can act as receptacles in which large amounts of debris, like food particles, collect.
Are you a good candidate for whitening?
Most men and women can have their teeth whitened without suffering any negative consequences. However, if you are pregnant, it’s not a good idea to get your teeth whitened. Wait until after the baby has been delivered. A lot also depends on the patient’s overall oral hygiene and the health of their gums. Before doing any kind of whitening procedure, your dentist will carefully review your medical history and dental charts.
Will Whitening work on everybody?
Most patients will see a vast improvement in the brightness of their smile, after getting their teeth bleached or whitened. The major caveat though, is that whitening will not work on caps, veneers, crowns or fillings. Discoloration of the teeth caused by medication or trauma will also not be remedied by the bleaching process.
Experts feel that bleaching is most effective with teeth that have a yellow cast about them. When the original tooth color is grayish, your dentist may not be able to get all the stains out, no matter how hard he or she tries.
Is whitening affordable?
This treatment is extremely cost effective, particularly when you compare having your dentist perform a one-time whitening as opposed to the cost of using over the counter whitening kits. These kits are not cheap and in order to obtain the desired results, you may have to buy several kits over a period of time. This can all add up pretty quickly.
I am not a good patient. Just walking into my Dentist’s office makes me nervous. Will having my teeth whitened hurt?
Do not worry, tooth whitening is a pain-free procedure. You should not feel anything after the treatment, although some patients do experience minor irritation in their gums. Those who suffer from receding gums are most at risk. But that discomfort should not last for more than a couple of days or so. That having been said, make sure that you are comfortable with the person who is doing the polishing and whitening. Sometimes, even the best professional can have a heavy-handed touch with the instruments. And that is not good for you. Most patients though, find the process to be rather enjoyable. Those vibrations from the motorized instruments can tickle a bit.
What is the process of having my teeth whitened like? What exactly does it entail?
Basically, it is a two-step process. Prior to having one’s teeth whitened, first it is absolutely vital that they be polished. This simple but effective procedure can be done by your dentist or the office Hygienist. Many patients confuse polishing with having their teeth whitened. They are two totally different things. A Prophylaxis treatment entails having any food particles, plaque or bacteria that have built up over time, removed. Your hygienist’s deft touch will get rid of that stubborn piece of broccoli that your toothbrush missed last night, before bedtime.
Polishing is one of the best cosmetic dental treatments that you can have, because it cleans the teeth of potentially harmful, problem-causing debris.
By the way, in Greek, Prophylaxis means to safeguard or prevent beforehand. Truer words were never spoken.
During the treatment, your hygienist will use an ultra-sonic device that gently vibrates and squirts water. This is called scaling and it removes imbedded plaque from your teeth. Traditional hand scalers can also be used.
The polishing itself is done by means of a motorized instrument that holds a small rubber cap that is filled with a toothpaste-like material. This very special and not at all bad tasting paste is spun around your teeth to make them smooth and shiny. You will actually, not only see, but feel the difference. As you roll the tip of your tongue around your teeth, you’ll notice that they no longer feel so rough and gritty. Some dentists even offer flavored fluoride treatments. This paste ranges from the more traditional mint to strawberry and cherry.
Now that your teeth have been cleaned, the process of whitening can begin. Prior to getting the bleaching treatment started, your dentist will go over a standard shade color chart with you. These shade whitening guides are used to measure tooth color. The guide will also help your dentist determine just how effective the treatment was. Although, most whitening treatments can be completed in a single, one-hour visit, certain cases will require a follow-up treatment or two. Most whitening procedures utilize a highly concentrated peroxide gel that is applied directly to the surface of the teeth. The majority of dentists feel that professional strength hydrogen peroxide is most effective in removing deep-seated stains from a patient’s teeth. A specialized light or laser activates the gel. This allows the whitening process to accelerate into high gear. The heat from the light also assists the gel in stain fighting. It should be noted that, before the whitening gel is applied, the dentist will protect your gums with a special substance. This reduces the possibility of burns to the soft tissue.
Your Dental professional will determine just how much or how little whitening will be needed. Whitening should only be done in moderation. Over-use of whitening materials and gels can sometimes result in damage to the enamel of a person’s teeth. That is precisely why you has to be very careful when using home whitening kits.
The newer, professional techniques and materials that your dentist has available are much less harmful to one’s enamel. It is always better to have your teeth whitened under the supervision of someone who knows what they are doing. If you are more comfortable doing so, your dentist will make it possible for you to get your teeth whitened at home. He or she will take impressions of your upper and lower teeth and then create custom mouthpieces that will fit your mouth quite nicely. In the comfort of your house or apartment, you will simply fill the mouthpieces with whitening gel that your dentist has provided. To obtain the results that you want, it will probably be necessary to wear the mouth pieces for several hours a day over a week or two. Time is the only drawback. Home-whitening takes much longer than a couple of trips to the Dentist’s office.
Do yourself a favor and see your dentist at least once a year for a thorough examination as well as a nice polish and whitening treatment. Then you will be ready to show off that charming and disarming George Clooney-like smile to your friends and co-workers. Hollywood smiles don’t just happen by accident. When you put in the work, you will see and love the results. Enjoy your gleaming new smile!