Dental Bleaching also known as tooth whitening and swabbing is a common procedure used in cosmetic dentistry. Whitening is used to restore the natural tooth color and bleaching is used to whiten the tooth beyond its natural color.
Tooth Discoloration: Two Types of Stains
- Extrinsic stains: are those that appear on the surface of the teeth as a result of exposure to dark-colored beverages, foods and tobacco, and routine wear and tear. Superficial extrinsic stains are minor and can be removed with brushing and prophylactic dental cleaning. Stubborn extrinsic stains can be removed with more involved efforts, like teeth bleaching. Persistent extrinsic stains can penetrate into the dentin and become ingrained if they are not dealt with early.
- Intrinsic stains: are those that form on the interior of teeth. Intrinsic stains result from trauma, aging, exposure to minerals (like tetracycline) during tooth formation and/or excessive ingestion of fluoride. In the past, it was thought that intrinsic stains were too resistant to be corrected by bleaching. Today, cosmetic dentistry experts believe that even deep-set intrinsic stains can be removed with supervised take-home teeth whitening that are maintained over a matter of months or even a year.
Tooth Whitening/Bleaching Procedure
- Teeth are polished with pumice, a grainy material used to remove any plaque on the surface of the tooth.
- Your mouth will be isolated with gauze to keep your teeth dry during the procedure. Retractors may also be used to keep your cheeks, lips and tongue away from the whitening solution.
- A barrier is placed along your gum line to protect it from the whitening solution.
- The teeth are then coated with the whitening solution on the front surface of the tooth. Either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide may be used as the bleaching agent.
- Many whitening products require a curing light or laser to be used to add heat to the solution to activate the peroxide. It will then be left on the teeth for 30 to 60 minutes, or reapplied in specific increments of time for up to one hour, depending on the brand.
- Once the optimum shade has been reached, or the maximum application time has passed, the teeth are rinsed with water and a fluoride application may be used to help ease the sensitivity some people experience with tooth whitening.
- You will be instructed to avoid foods and beverages that have a high level of pigment, such as coffee, tomato sauce or juice, yellow mustard, or red wine, and tobacco use for 24 hours after the procedure to allow the enamel pores to close to prevent re-staining.