Teeth whitening is usually done either by bleaching or using non-bleaching whitening products.
While there are several pastes available on the market that claim to whiten teeth, their efficacy depends on the active ingredients present. There are also other products such as strips and oral rinses that can help whiten teeth.
The active ingredient used for whitening teeth is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide—some pastes and teeth-whitening products may contain these ingredients in varying strengths to help whiten teeth. Over-the-counter pastes and other teeth-whitening products may not always work, however, especially if the teeth are severely discolored.
The other option is to visit a dentist for professional teeth whitening. They use special pastes that they apply to the teeth. When the active ingredient is broken down, oxygen enters the enamel on the teeth, lightening the color.
5 ways to whiten teeth
- Strips: Teeth whitening strips are made of a thin, flexible plastic that has been imbibed with a low concentration of bleach. The strips come pre-packaged and are readily applied to the teeth, adapting to their contour. Because the peroxide concentration is mild, most whitening strips are deemed safe to use twice a day for 2 weeks.
- Toothpaste: Silica, aluminum oxide, calcium carbonate, and baking soda are mild abrasives used in toothpastes that help remove surface stains. Whitening toothpastes, unlike professional whitening solutions, do not contain bleach, but do contain extra polishing or chemical ingredients that can help remove further surface staining.
- Oral rinses: The benefit of using whitening rinses is that they contain bleaching agents such as peroxide that whiten teeth in addition to refreshing breath and reducing dental plaque and gum disease. They can be used twice a day before brushing, similar to mouthwash.
- Trays: Tray-based teeth whitening systems involve filling a mouth-guard-like tray with a gel whitening solution that has a peroxide bleaching agent. The tray is worn at night for up to 4 weeks.
- Bleaching: The quickest approach to teeth whitening is in-office bleaching, during which a whitening product is applied directly to the teeth. Heat, a specific light, or a laser may be used in conjunction with these products. Results can be seen within 30-60 minutes of therapy.
What causes tooth discoloration?
There are two types of staining that cause tooth discoloration: intrinsic and extrinsic staining.
- Intrinsic staining, also known as internal staining, is caused by heredity, age, antibiotics, excessive fluoride levels, and developmental abnormalities and can begin before the tooth has erupted. Some dental restorations may induce tooth discoloration after the tooth has erupted.
- Extrinsic staining, also known as external staining, is caused due to environmental factors such as smoking, excessive consumption of tea, coffee, wine, and certain foods, antibiotics, and metals such as iron or copper. Colored substances from various sources are absorbed into dental pellicles or directly onto the tooth surface, resulting in staining.
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