Don’t we all want a whiter smile? A whiter smile is more pleasing to look at and is one way of meta signalling to others that we are healthy and well care for in our environment. When we care for our teeth by using a good oral hygiene routine and we take care to limit the staining agents that we consume, we are less likely to develop a yellowed smile.
Staining – the Usual Suspects
2. Red wine
3. Tobacco smoke
When you drink a beverage with a straw, you allow the acids you’re consuming to bypass the front teeth as they are delivered to the back of the mouth. And while you might feel silly the first few times, it is worth it to preserve the shade of your teeth.
Age and Gender
Teeth have a natural tendency to change colour as we age. Men often complain of these changes before women do, since males typically have larger teeth and therefore display more surface area. You may also notice the shade of your teeth change with the lighting in the room.
Getting to the Core of it
In order to whiten the teeth, we need to bypass the enamel in order to reach the dentin. While the enamel of the teeth can become somewhat discoloured, the primary determining factor behind yellowing teeth is the inner core called dentin. Dentin is more yellow coloured than enamel, which is partially transparent by comparison. Enamel protects the dentin from the effects of decay while dentin protects the pulp and nerve of the tooth which is housed within it.
Teeth whitening using peroxide was discovered quite by accident, since peroxide was being used to treat cases of periodontal disease in patients. After having peroxide applied in a particular concentration for a period of time, dentist began to notice that teeth were actually whitening as a side effect of the treatment! It was time to investigate further – this could be big, and it was! Today, tooth whitening is one of the most requested services requested at dental clinics across Alberta due to its efficacy and its affordability.
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Sensitive Teeth – Troubleshooting
Patients will sometimes complain of sensitive teeth that seem to be becoming more sensitive by the day. After some investigating into the presence of gum recession or other causes, we often find the culprit to be over the counter whitening products.
Some people are more susceptible to discomfort after whitening than others. This is because peroxide treatments dry the dentin out slightly, which causes it to shrink and put pressure on the nerve housed in the center. This occurs after whitening but typically dissipates within a day or two. If you’re using whitening products in your toothpaste, mouth rinses and chewing gum, however, there is potential for your teeth to become increasingly sensitive without you noticing until one day you are uncomfortable enough to speak to your dentist about it.
Our advice is to stick to clinical whitening products rather than those offered at your grocer or drugstore. This is because clinical strength products can do more whitening in fewer treatments, which means reduced chances of discomfort for you. Add to this that your dentist has access to barriers that will keep the product form burning your cheeks and gums while it does its work bleaching the teeth, and dentists are also able to offer a rehydrating treatment to the teeth prior to leaving the clinic in order to shorten the time required for your teeth to rehydrate fully and return to their old selves again. The approach of doing a little to whiten the teeth each day may seem like a pragmatic approach to teeth whitening, but it often results in mediocre whitening with prolonged sensitivity and discomfort.
Of particular note is that teeth that appear grey in comparison to their neighbours and have had a root canal cannot be effectively treated without clinical products. This is because in this case we are not looking to bleach the outer layers of dentin – we need to bleach the inside of the dentin, since this is the source of the discolouration. Greying of teeth typically indicates a flawed root canal where there was some debris left inside the tooth when it was sealed following the root canal procedure. As this debris decomposes, it can darken the tooth. In order to correct this, your dentist may suggest internal bleaching – the process of entering the tooth with a small opening made with a dental drill and injecting the core with bleaching solution. This solution will be left for a day or two to ensure that the bleach has its best chance to have maximum effect before the inside of the tooth is cleaned and resealed.
If you have questions about this or other services offered by our general dentists, contact our clinic today.