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
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.