Many patients are interested in improving the appearance of their smiles. If this is something you are interested in as well, lightening your teeth is the place to start. If you are thinking of having your teeth lightened (a procedure also known as bleaching), you should understand all the factors involved.
A typical case before bleaching...
HOW IT WORKS... Tooth lightening is a process whereby extrinsic (surface) and intrinsic (imbedded) stains are removed from your teeth. Removal of the extrinsic stains begins with having your teeth thoroughly cleaned and polished here in the office. Then peroxide compounds (we use carbamide peroxide gel) are applied to your teeth both here in the office and at home with special trays that we make for you. The gel passes through the surface and into the inner layers of your teeth releasing oxygen that dissipates the stains.
WHEN IT WORKS... Brown, orange and yellow hued stains are most easily lightened, especially if they have developed with age. They are not as easily bleached in the young. Blue and gray hued stains are significantly more difficult to reduce as is extensive tetracycline staining. Tetracycline is an antibiotic that, when given to children while their permanent teeth are developing, will cause staining of those teeth in adulthood. A few patients' teeth do not respond as dramatically to lightening as the average patient's for reasons that are not readily apparent.
...and one week after using our bleaching system
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS... It is important for you to remember that bleaching agents only effect tooth structure (enamel, root surface and their underlying layer called dentin). Any restorative materials (fillings, inlays or crowns) you may have in or on your teeth will not be affected. This means that after your bleaching is completed, any restorations that you may have already had will most probably appear darker and more obvious in contrast to your newly lightened teeth.
ADDITIONAL TREATMENT... Because of this contrast, you will most probably want any restorations of your teeth present before they were lightened to be replaced. This should be done 2-3 weeks after the bleaching has been completed. This is because there is a slight relapse in the shade of your lightened teeth during this period and because bonded restorations do not adhere to newly bleached teeth as firmly as they usually do. Any bonded fillings in or crowns on your front teeth prior to bleaching will need to be replaced. Like most patients, you probably do not show any more back teeth when you smile than the two immediately behind your upper and lower eye teeth on each side (all teeth behind your eye teeth are deemed back teeth). These teeth are called premolar teeth and since they are back teeth, they often have silver amalgam fillings on their chewing surfaces (bonded fillings are not tough enough to hold up in these areas) that can show when you smile. Obviously, bleaching will not change this so these fillings will need to be replaced with either inlays or crowns.
SIDE EFFECTS... You may notice that your teeth develop some cold sensitivity or your gums become mildly irritated during the lightening procedure. This normally resolves soon after the process is finished. There are no lasting adverse effects associated with bleaching your teeth.
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT LIGHTENING YOUR TEETH, PLEASE ASK US!