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Effects of Bleaching On Teeth

Bleaching is one of the most popular ways of whitening your teeth. Almost every one desires a whiter, more beautiful smile, especially those whose teeth are heavily stained and discolored or simply just yellow.

Bleaching involves the use of bleaching agents such as Hydrogen Peroxide and Carbamide Peroxide on the teeth. Hydrogen peroxide is used in concentrations of 3-16% while Carbamide peroxide concentrations range between 10-44%. The latter is usually preferred by dentists as it is considered more stable and less harmful to tooth substance.

These bleaching agents are added to gels, which are applied to the teeth. A tray that fits around the teeth contains this gel, and is placed over the teeth. A blue activating light such as a plasma arc, halogen or LED light is used to activate the bleaching agents. This is a way to provide heat energy to the bleaching agents, to cause movement of the molecules in the gel and in turn, cause teeth to whiten.

What happens during bleaching is that when the gel is activated by light, the bleaching agent is given enough energy to release free- radicals. A free radical is an unpaired electron, and is highly reactive and unstable. In order to stabilize, it must combine with another electron. So, the free radicals in turn react with other stable molecules to take an electron, thus producing more free- radicals and starting a vicious cycle of damage to the surrounding tissues. During bleaching, the free-radicals attack the pigment molecules in the teeth and break them down, hence making the teeth appear white. This does cause internal damage to natural tooth structure and demineralizes their enamel, but it isn’t significant enough to cause major harm to the teeth unless it is done too often.

When colored foods and drinks are ingested such as red wine, coffee and tea, the teeth can pick up on the color and return to their previous yellowish, stained form. Unless these foods are avoided, bleaching does not last long. Patients usually get teeth bleaching done once in a year or every two years, which isn’t too harmful as the teeth have an intrinsic ability to remineralize when given a an environment of high calcium and fluoride (such as while brushing teeth or drinking milk).

To summarize, teeth bleaching can be harmful when done too frequently, if the concentration of the bleaching agent is too high or if the bleaching agent is used improperly. Teeth bleaching is otherwise not harmful to the teeth and can be done once in a while to maintain that beautiful, white smile we all want.

Your Options for Dental Bleaching

Teeth whitening or bleaching is currently the most popular cosmetic dental procedure. By lightening the dentition, our sparkling smile makes us appear more confident and gives us higher esteem.  It also gives us a more youthful glow.

Staining or discoloration of teeth comes with age due to the tooth’s change in mineral structure as well as exposure to:

o     Tobacco

o     Highly pigmented food and beverages

o     Bacterial pigments

o     Antibiotics

o     Drugs

o     Illness

There are several bleaching options to teeth whitening:

o     Strips

o     Pen

o     Gel

o     Toothpaste

o     Laser Therapy

At Home Kits

At home kits typically use either strips that fold over the front teeth or gel applied to the teeth using guard trays. Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide are the two most commonly used oxidizing agents.  These infiltrate the pores of the enamel, oxidizing the interprismatic stain sediment. As time goes on, the bleaching progresses to the dentin layer underneath the enamel as well.

The bleaching effect can be hastened in a professional dental office by supplementing light energy to the bleaching process. Benefit duration depends on usage of tobacco or intake of highly pigmented foods and beverages.

Intrinsic Staining

Teeth can be discolored internally and at-home-whitening kits would not work.  There are however two easy solutions to mask the discoloration:

o     Bonding

A thin layer of composite is applied to the front surface of the tooth and then bonded or adhered using a blue light

o     Veneers

A thin restorative layer is placed over the front of the tooth with an adhesive to mask the staining

There are many options available today with bleaching options include applications done with at-home kits, dental offices and spas.

Bleaching with Power Lights

Using a power light (of plasma arc, halogen or LED) is a new technology used in a dentist’s office to hasten the bleaching process. A high energy is focused on the teeth, stimulating the peroxide molecules and accelerating the whitening.  It is done in a single, painless session of between 30-60 minutes thereby decreasing the exposure time to hydrogen peroxide that the patient would ordinarily have.

Risks and Adverse Reactions of Bleaching

o     Pain from sensitive teeth caused by exposed dentinal tubules

o     Increased sensitivity to extreme temperatures (hot/cold)

o     Overbleaching (which changes the color of the teeth)

o     Chemical burns if the oxidizing agent in the gel used is too highly concentrated

o     UV lights can cause harm to eyes and skin

o     Increased risk of tongue cancer

o     Allergic reactions

Although bleaching can be beneficial enjoyed by the patient, the risks and side effects highlight the need for individuals to get an examination and consultation from a professional dentist before undertaking or considering any procedure.

Any dental cavities or gingivitis must be addressed and corrected.  A thorough evaluation will also determine whether a person is a candidate for a bleaching technique. X-rays may be needed to determine the depth and extent of any problem along with the depth needed for teeth whitening.

If all the above has been taken into consideration, and this is something that appeals to you, by all means- Go for it!

It can be life changing.