Whiter Shades of Pale?
Smile for the camera!!
You can be a lean, mean, eating machine, or gregarious and grinning to strangers and kin alike. Regardless, your teeth matter to you most, but also register with those who see you. Whether your smile is called “dazzling” or you refer to your teeth as your “pearly whites”, tooth-coloured hues are lightened and therefore, brightened, so much that a good updated smile might actually help you find your way in the dark! Let us clarify what professional whitening of your teeth entails and what you will gain from over-the-counter options so you can make an informed decision in defining what’s white and right for you.
What Works and What Doesn’t:
Though you may feel your teeth are hard as rocks, like many types of stones, they are nevertheless porous. How white teeth appear is affected by the colour of the underlying dentine and the thin outer coating of enamel. Dentine hue is determined by genetics, early childhood medications, age, and trauma to the teeth which can all cause darkening. Also, enamel varies in shade and translucency.
Toothpaste and mouthwash are most important in maintaining the health of your teeth, but neither will whiten your smile, because they are too transient and would irritate the soft tissues in your mouth if they contained the chemicals required to whiten your teeth.
Chemicals?? Which, Why and How?
All whitening processes entail applying a gel containing some percentage of peroxide directly on to the teeth, then ensuring it stays there long enough to do the job. We do this by shielding the teeth with flexible trays, so that the gel doesn’t touch gum tissues and isn’t swallowed by the patient (blech!). Bleaching is either carried out in the dental office with the use of light technology or at home using custom-made bleaching trays, which the patient wears for 1 – 2 hours a day. In-office procedures offer significant shade changes immediately after the appointment, whereas take-home gel with trays alone will usually require 10 – 14 daily applications to achieve similar results. You will be given enough syringes filled with gel to do the job. Storing them in the refrigerator helps to maintain the potency of the active ingredients.
And Now for the Fine Print:
We love to see a bright white smile beaming at us, and hope to show the same brilliance of good health and joy to others. But as with all things, there are limits. Porcelain crowns or white composite fillings that were applied and matched before a patient receives whitening treatment will be somewhat darker than newly whitened teeth. Since crowns, fillings and bonded materials do not change colour through the whitening process, patients may elect to have visible crowns and fillings replaced with lighter shades afterwards. Some sensitivity to heat and cold may result, but this is transient and will settle down. Actual teeth sensitivity can often be reduced by applying a “sensitive tooth” toothpaste for a couple weeks prior to treatment. Irritation to soft tissues is very uncommon. As always, follow the dentist’s directions by taking special care not to overfill the personalized trays.
It has been said that one’s eyes are the windows into one’s soul. But it is teeth, in a broad smile or in moments of belly-laughter, which convey the gladness and good humour you feel. Your smile, at every age, is your best feature. Make it the best it can be! Whitening is a place to start, but other applications such as veneers and straightening devices also play important roles. We cannot know what next aethetic improvements our crocodile might take, but you can let us know how we can help you have the smile you’ve always wanted!
( ©Crocodile photos – Dr. Rodney Shainbom)