Almost everyone finds a bright, white smile appealing. This is the reason so many people are willing to commit time and money to their own tooth whitening efforts. Today, there are a wide range of options available to those who want to brighten their smile; they can purchase over the counter kits at their local pharmacy or department store, or they can visit their dentist for professional whitening services. Most people will find that there are two popular chemicals used to perform tooth whitening – hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. The difference between the two is the potency and power of the chemicals when applied to the teeth. For those who visit their dentists to have the procedure done, a powerful hydrogen peroxide gel will be used under closely monitored conditions. For the “at home” kits, the lower concentration carbamide gel products are used, and this is the reason that patients must “wear” the gel for a longer time than they would were they in the dentist’s office. Why do our teeth stain? Even people who don’t drink coffee or tea, smoke or grind their teeth will experience a change in the color of their teeth as they age. Everyone is born with an interior tooth color that will slowly emerge through the loss of enamel and any exposure to minerals such as fluoride; even sustaining trauma will cause an alteration in tooth color. Such discoloration or staining is referred to as “intrinsic staining”. The other kinds of stains are called “extrinsic staining” and these are the stains created by drinking darkly colored beverages on a regular basis, smoking, genetic traits, diet, and grinding of teeth.
Both types of stains are considered treatable, but the age of the patient and the level of staining play a large role in the final results. Additionally, not all intrinsic stains can be properly addressed through whitening efforts and a good dentist or technician will discuss this with their patient before beginning. For those who opt to have the process performed by a trained professional, a fifteen to twenty minute procedure should be expected. The patient will have to wear a mouth guard, and have a “rubber dam” painted on the gums. The peroxide gel will then be applied to the teeth and in a short while the process will be complete. Most patients are provided with “take home” kits to maintain their newly brightened teeth, or to address stains that were not entirely eliminated. Dentists recommend that such patients avoid smoking, darkly colored foods and beverages and drinking through a straw for several days after the procedure.
Some dentists will also sell a patient a take home kit with all of the appropriate materials and supplies, but with a peroxide gel that is not as potent. Such a choice can often save a patient a great deal of money, but it may not provide the same quick and powerful results as that done by the dentist. Finally, many people are familiar with the various over the counter whitening kits, and though they require a time commitment of more than a week, they generally produce excellent results. Unfortunately, such kits, though inexpensive and convenient, will not be able to address deeply set or intrinsic stains, which must be handled by a professional dentist.