Teeth bleaching is a chemical process used to remove stains from the surface of the teeth and to whiten their color. The core of a tooth is made of a yellow substance called dentin. The dentin is covered in a whiter coating of tooth enamel which creates the visible surface of the tooth. Over time, enamel can wear down and become stained, causing it to appear dull and yellow. Sometimes enamel becomes so thin that the yellow dentin of the tooth begins to show through it.
Tooth enamel stains for a variety of reasons. Normal wear and tear from everyday use of teeth results in tiny microscopic cracks in the enamel. These cracks can fill with organic debris over time, dulling the appearance of the tooth. Some teeth bleaching products and procedures help remove this debris, improving the appearance of the tooth and whitening its color.
Exposure to dark colored foods and beverages can also lead to tooth discoloration. Red wine, coffee, tea, and cola are particularly prone to leaving a darkening residue on teeth. Smoking also has a significant yellowing effect on tooth enamel. Teeth bleaching on a more regular schedule may be required for teeth with a heavy exposure to these types of discolorations.
A wide variety of teeth bleaching procedures are available to help remove stains and return teeth to a whiter color. Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are the primary active ingredients in most teeth bleaching products. Procedures done in a dental office generally utilize hydrogen peroxide while those available for home use rely on carbamide peroxide as their primary active ingredient.
Teeth bleaching kits to be used at home can come in the form of strips, paint-on gels, and standard sized mouthpieces used as trays to hold a whitening agent. These methods usually require repeated applications over a period of days or weeks. They can be used by themselves or as maintenance to a dental office whitening procedure.
Teeth bleaching procedures done in a dental office take less time than the methods available for home use. This is mostly due to the higher concentration of peroxide in whitening gels available to dental care professionals. Due to the more potent ingredients employed by in office teeth bleaching procedures, a greater change in the teeth’s color can be achieved in smaller amounts of time than with home teeth bleaching methods. They are also significantly more expensive.
Some side effects are common with teeth bleaching products. Increased tooth sensitivity and gum irritation can result from their use. Generally these systems are temporary and go away after a few days. The color of dental work such as crowns and veneers are not affected by teeth bleaching procedures.