Want a brighter smile? When it comes to tooth-whitening, you've got two options: in-office-based teeth bleaching, or at-home care.
Both tooth-whitening options use peroxide-based bleaching agents. At-home systems contain from 3% to 20% peroxide (carbamide or hydrogen peroxides). In-office systems contain from 15% to 43% peroxide.
Generally, the longer you keep a stronger solution on your teeth, the whiter your teeth become. However, the higher the percentage of peroxide in the whitening solution, the shorter it should be applied to the teeth. Keeping the gel on longer will dehydrate the tooth and increase tooth sensitivity.
There are pros and cons to each option, but before you try at-home tooth-bleaching kits, be sure to talk to your dentist. Not everyone will see good results. Bleaching will not whiten porcelain crowns or composite tooth-colored bondings.
Teeth whitening done by your dentist can get teeth brighter faster. The bleaching solution is usually much stronger than at-home kits. Also, heat, light, or a combination of the two may be used to speed and intensify the whitening process.
The most dramatic results -- teeth generally get three to eight shades brighter -- usually take several 30- to 60-minute in-office visits. Some dentists use techniques that can be done in a single 2-hour appointment (e.g. the Zoom system). The cost of in-office tooth whitening varies, but can range from $500 to $1,000.
There are many choices for bleaching teeth at home, the most common include:
Whether you use an at-home tooth-whitening system, or have your teeth bleached by a dentist, you can help maintain the results by brushing, flossing, and rinsing daily. Also, avoid acidic and tannin-rich foods and beverages such as:
Tooth bleaching can make teeth temporarily sensitive -- or be uncomfortable for people who already have sensitive teeth. When used incorrectly, home kits can also lead to burned -- even temporarily bleached -- gums.
Tooth-whitening works best for people with yellow teeth and is less effective for people with brown teeth. If your teeth are gray or purple, tooth bleaching probably won't work at all.
To be sure tooth-whitening is worth your time and money, talk to your dentist before you use an over-the-counter tooth whitening kit.
What is internal bleaching?
Internal bleaching is the process of bleaching or whitening a tooth from the inside out. Unlike traditional tooth whitening, where whitening agents are applied to the outside of the tooth, internal bleaching is completed from the inside out. In cases of trauma or caries, the discoloration begins from inside of the tooth and spreads outwards. These types of stains can be eliminated by chemical means, via internal bleaching (a more conservative option), or by crowning or bonding the tooth surface in order to mask the discoloration. Oftentimes, a combination of internal bleaching and restorative therapy is used.
How is internal bleaching different than tooth whitening?
Traditional tooth whitening removes stains from the external surfaces of the teeth. There are a myriad of over the counter and dentist prescribed methods to achieve this goal, all of which are applied to the outside of vital or non-vital teeth. Internal bleaching on the other hand involves placing peroxide crystals inside of your tooth. In order to perform this type of whitening, a root canal must have been completed prior to starting treatment.
At your dental appointment, a small hole will be made in the back of the tooth and any debris will be removed. Then, the bleach crystals are placed inside of the tooth and the access sealed with a temporary filling material. Sometimes the bleaching process can take as little as 30 minutes, but more often than not, the bleach is allowed to sit inside of the tooth for 1-2 weeks. At this time the tooth is re-evaluated by your dentist. This process can be repeated if the desired color has not been achieved. Since the tooth has already been root canal treated, this process is painless and you are able to eat and drink normally while the bleach is inside of the tooth.
It is important to note that internal bleaching may not be able to eliminate all staining. In these cases, a crown is indicated in order to match the root canal treated tooth to the adjacent teeth and to protect the root canal treated tooth from biting forces.
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