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  Teeth Whitening - Bleaching  

It is the age of vanity and everyone is more mindful of his or her appearance. Product commercials promote that one should have a shapely body, straight hair and perfect white teeth. Because first impressions last, people go through all the pain to look excellently groomed and what a fault it would be if one did not have perfect white teeth to go with this!

While adults have different opinions as to what is more unsightly, discolored or misshapen teeth, most of them agree that white teeth improves a person’s appearance.

Teeth, color and discoloration

There are 4 general shades of teeth, according to a basic shade guide: A (reddish brown), B (reddish yellow), C (gray), D (reddish gray). However, there is really no one measure to determine teeth color and how white a person’s teeth are. Natural teeth color is determined by genetics; some people may have naturally brighter enamel, hence they have relatively whiter teeth.

Discoloration can be caused by a variety of factors: staining, disease, aging, or other chemicals and even medicines. A more common cause of enamel or teeth discoloration is staining from food or tobacco. Cola soft drinks, teas and coffee are the frequent culprits. Diseases and Medicines may cause mottling. If teeth color changes after an accident or injury to it, dental consult should be sought immediately.

Teeth whitening procedures

To correct teeth discoloration, various innovations, procedures and materials have been created for a more appealing whiter shade. Toothpastes have been added whitening agents, teeth whitening kits have been made available in the market and there is an array of in-office treatments available for guided whitening.

Teeth whitening procedures have increasingly become popular with the event of the teeth whitening kits that one can buy over-the-counter and use safely at home. These products contain the lowest level of whitening agents (3-6%) to ensure safety. On the other hand, it has to be applied twice a day for at least 2 weeks to arrive at the desired shade. These products come in the form of paint-on, strips or gum shields.

An at-home bleaching requires the supervision of a dentist although it is carried out at home, every night. The dentist custom-makes a mouth tray that contains whitening agent at a higher concentration than the market products, but still lower than what is used in the office. Before going to sleep, the mouth tray is put in place and this is repeated for 2 weeks or until desired result is achieved. This is more often used as it saves time going to the dentist’s clinic for treatment.

Lastly, Professional consult may also be done for in-clinic whitening procedures, which include chemical whitening, mild acid whitening, abrasive teeth whitening, and laser teeth whitening.

Chemical and mild acid bleaching is 78% effective in whitening out discolorations. This results in better teeth appearance and more self-confidence. However, minor drawbacks include sore gums from the bleach. Some individuals may be more sensitive to the bleach, which causes a worse reaction with minimal amount of bleach.

Laser bleaching employs a laser with a whitening gel. The whitening gel is applied onto the teeth and the laser light activates the gel to absorb the energy from the light, penetrating the enamel and giving it a lightening effect. Usually only one visit is needed to achieve whiter teeth, but the procedure is very costly.

Factors influencing tooth whitening or bleaching

There is really no objective answer as to how white one’s teeth can become after whitening treatment. The natural color of one’s teeth affects this outcome, as well as the whitening product or procedure employed.

Teeth can become “whiter” by up to 9 shades. Most products improve teeth color by 3-4 shades although some may claim they can improve by up to 7 shades. The active ingredient that whitening products contain is either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. The concentration and length of time the active ingredient comes in contact with the teeth has a linear relationship to the whitening outcome.

Clinical measurements of tooth whitening

If the procedure is slower, it takes longer to finish. As such any change may not be noticeable immediately. The outcome of this is dissatisfaction in the part of the consumer as they feel that nothing has changed and the money was not well-spent. On the other hand, immediate results, as in laser whitening, could make the patient more self-conscious as people might start staring at the drastically whiter set of teeth.

A colorimeter is an instrument, which is used to measure color of objects. It is based on international standards of Commission Internationale de l’E´ clairage (CIE) Lab color space. This has been used in many instances of teeth whitening procedures as it gives a 3 dimensional account of color changes of the teeth from within the mouth.

The easier, more commonly used method to show color improvement is the “before-and-after” pictures. A picture is taken before the patient undergoes treatment and another picture is taken after and a comparison is made. It serves as a testimony to the patient and by the patient that indeed, the procedure worked by however much.

Combining the two previous approaches could also be done. The pictures taken are compared digitally with the CIE lab color chart. This would not only give the patient a subjective measurement, but also an “objective” one.

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