Teeth Whitening and Bleaching

We’ve discussed teeth whitening at some length in previous Dentist Tips posts; this post will go into some detail about the safety of whitening procedures and the difference between whitening and bleaching. Before we get into the meat of the thing, it’s worth summarizing what’s already been discussed. First, your teeth should almost never look ultra-bright white; that look will probably not suit your face. Teeth are usually a grey-white-yellow colour (much like a pearl), and your dentist will be able to help you determine what colour might best suit your teeth, using a tooth shade scale. Second, you should always consult with your dentist before engaging in a tooth whitening regimen, as they can confirm the safety and efficacy of the regimen.

There’s a difference between a teeth whitening procedure and bleaching products, and the distinction is pretty important. There are a lot of things that can be considered whitening products; there’s even tooth whitening gum. These products will whiten your teeth, but the results aren’t drastic by any means. Don’t expect to chew a piece of gum each day, continue drinking coffee, red wine and chocolate, and get whiter teeth. For gradual teeth whitening, you’ll probably need lifestyle changes, and don’t forget to brush twice a day and floss once a day; without doing that, it’s going to take a lot to keep your teeth white, even after a more drastic procedure.

Teeth bleaching is that more drastic procedure, and the Canadian Dental Association supports its use so long as it’s being done under the supervision of a dentist. When you consult with your dentist, one of the first things they’ll do is figure out the cause of discoloration; without addressing the root cause, the problem may recur. It’s worth noting that crowns and fillings are not affected by the bleaching procedure, so care must be taken if you want those fillings to look natural after a bleaching. There are some patients who might have irregular tooth discoloration, which means their teeth are different colours in different spots. These patients might respond poorly to tooth bleaching, because it bleaches all the teeth at once; this can make irregular discoloration more, and not less, apparent.

The most common complaint about bleaching is its effect on the gums; soft tissues are prone to becoming irritated by bleaching products, but if they’re used appropriately, the irritation should be no more than minor. Some patients complain of tooth sensitivity. Both gum irritation and tooth sensitivity subside over time; if they do not, talk to your dentist.

Teeth whitening and bleaching can increase your confidence, especially if you work in a customer or client facing business and you feel anxious about your appearance. That said, it’s important not to over bleach; this might cause problems, as the effects of long-term bleaching haven’t been studied. You shouldn’t use bleaching products when you’re pregnant; there’s a lot you shouldn’t do pregnant, so this shouldn’t surprise you.