Boulder Dental Arts discusses the fundamentals of tooth whitening procedures
One of the most common requests from patients is for whiter teeth. It also happens to be one of the fastest, simplest, and most economical ways to improve your looks, when weighed against all the cosmetic surgeries people happily undergo. But how does it work, is it safe, and can you do it?
Our teeth have their own natural shade, which over time tends to darken and yellow. Why is that? Well, there’s two reasons. First you have superficial extrinsic staining which comes from coffee, tea, wine, smoking, etc. This stain can be removed with whitening toothpastes (they contain a grit that polishes the tooth similar to the way you wax a car,) and a professional polishing from our expert hygienist. Then there is intrinsic stain, which is the natural color of your dentin (the internal layer of tooth below your enamel.) Dentin tends to be dark in color, giving the tooth its yellowish appearance. Tooth whitening procedures work by penetrating the enamel and actually lightening the inside of the tooth to a more desirable shade.
The procedures used to accomplish this are very safe and do not damage the tooth. However, you will experience an increase in sensitivity during the procedure and for a short while afterwards. People with very sensitive teeth may not be suitable candidates, as they might find it hard to tolerate the process. Fluoride treatments before hand can often reduce that discomfort. Also, it is important to note restorations (fillings, caps, bridges, veneers, etc) historically do not whiten. So if you have those in a visible area bare in mind your teeth might become whiter than your fillings. Finally, there is a natural limit to how white your teeth can get. People with really dark yellow teeth will probably never get theirs as white as someone who starts off with sparkly snow white teeth. It isn’t fair, but life is not either.
There are several ways to whiten. You can begin with over the counter methods such as Crest white strips. Some people have good success with these and they are fairly cheap. But for the most part they won’t work as well as a professional system. Next you have your lasers, Zoom, etc. You may see these in the mall. It works by applying very strong concentrations of bleach to the teeth over a few sessions. While they have the obvious benefit of instant gratification we generally do not promote this method. Our patient satisfaction has been mixed, and the level of white is not controllable, nor does it seem to last very long.
The Boulder Dental Arts Method
Our preferred method of tooth whitening takes a little bit of effort and dedication on your part, but at the end of the day (well, at the end of 2-3 weeks) you will be happy. We take impressions of your teeth and fabricate custom carriers which hold a carbamide peroxide gel solution against your teeth. You do this daily for a few weeks or until you have reached your desired level of whitening. This technique is nice because it is predictable, it gives you control over how white your teeth get, and once you have the carrier you can do touch ups whenever you please.