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Is Teeth Whitening Harmful To Teeth

A perfect sparkling smile and confidence go hand in hand. Many are conscious if their teeth are not perfectly white. Teeth lose their colour and they become dull, some even have a yellowish tinge. Reasons are varied – some lose their colour due to aging, some are affected due to long term medications and some others with other dental issues like decay or gum disease or even injuries to the mouth.

Teeth whitening mainly involve bleaching the teeth and reduce the stains that are present in the teeth. This is one of the main types of dental services for which patients visit dental clinics. But now, there are many over the counter products that one can use at home for perfect white teeth. One needs to be careful while doing whitening treatment at home as they are risks involved.

Whitening procedure

Teeth have several parts with varied functions. The outermost layer of the teeth is the dental enamel. This layer gives protection to the teeth and for this reason it is very hard. Immediately following the dental enamel is the inner dentine. This forms the core of the teeth and contains the pulp region. This area has the nerve endings and blood vessels nourishes the teeth. The innermost part is the root, which embeds the tooth into the bone.

It is the outermost layer of enamel that discolours mostly. It absorbs food stains from coffee, tea, and wine or even from fruits like berries. Discolouration is also seen due to smoking or using tobacco. Lack of personal oral hygiene can cause plaque formation on the teeth and cause discolouration. Some medications if used for a long time will also change the colour of the teeth. Aging can change the wear of the enamel and sometimes trauma caused to the mouth can interfere with enamel formation in children and bring about discoloured teeth.

Teeth discolouration when checked can show different coloured teeth – some yellow, some brown, black or some spotted. When the outer enamel coating erodes off the inner dentine layer is visible which leads to the teeth being yellow. Food stains such as coffee, tea or lack of oral hygiene can result in brown teeth. If there is decay in the tooth or the pulp area, this will change the colour of the teeth to black. Some teeth will have white spots on them -this is caused by too much fluoride in the water that is consumed.

The type of teeth whitening procedure depends on the type of stain. There are two different types of strains – extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic as the word suggests is exterior stains. These stains are seen outside the teeth – on the dental enamel. Food stains, stains from smoking are all in this category. Intrinsic are the stains found interior of the enamel. The stains work through the enamel covering and accumulate inside and discolour the teeth. Age related stains are both intrinsic and extrinsic – as some are caused by food stains and some caused by those which collect inside the enamel.

Depending on the stain, the treatment procedure is planned by the dentist. If the stain is minimal and extrinsic, then the dentist will clean the teeth and apply the whitening gel and brighten the teeth. In some cases, the dentists will make an impression of the teeth. This will be used to make mouth guards or mouth trays. This will contain the whitening gel. These guards need to be slipped on to the teeth and allow the gel to work on the discoloured teeth. It will need to be used anywhere between 2 weeks to 4 weeks.

Some gels can be left in the mouth/teeth for about 8 hours continuously. This will help to reduce the time of the whitening procedure. The latest and fastest method that is used is laser whitening. In this procedure, the dentist will apply a bleaching agent on the teeth and then apply laser light over it. This will help in removing the discolouration. This process is quite fast and is completed within an hour.

How safe is teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening is one dental procedure that is used by many of all ages. It is also one of the most popular dental treatments available. There are however few side effects associated with whitening. All of them are minor and does not damage the oral health of a person.

Tooth sensitivity
Teeth whitening uses peroxide for whitening the teeth. Hydrogen peroxide is the main ingredient in these whitening gels and some people are sensitive to this chemical.  Feeling slight pain or discomfort during the procedure or being affected when consuming hot or cold food is one of the symptoms associated with teeth sensitivity. But this is a minor concern and will go off within a time. If one feels such an issue during the procedure, this should be discussed with the dentist. This will help them to change the concentration of the peroxide present in the whitening gel but still give the desired effect.

Gum irritation
Peroxide affects the gum lining and irritates the tissues. Some might experience inflammation in the gums due to the whitening agents. This is called a chemical burn, the tissue will turn white due to the effect of chemicals. Restoration of the tissues happens within 24 hours. Washing the area with warm water will help promote the restoration process at a faster rate. In dental clinics, the gums are protected from the effect of peroxide by covering them with guards. Some clinics apply a protective gel over the gum lining for extra protection.

Dental restoration
Some are worried that the dental restorations that they have done will be affected by teeth whitening. The concern is that the whitening agents will cause the mercury from the amalgam to be washed away at a faster rate and cause other health concerns. That is not the case however, dental restorations are not affected by the teeth whitening procedure and procedures like dental crowns and implants are all well protected from any adverse action.

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