Over time, our teeth change colour as we expose them to foods and drinks that leave stains. Coffee, red wine, nicotine, sauces and more can all leave the teeth looking less white than they once did. Teeth whitening can restore some of the gleam. There are several methods of teeth whitening out there, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Home Whitening Treatments
Probably the most common form of tooth whitening, home whitening usually involves applying a solution of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to the teeth; this can take the form of a gel, pen or whitening strip. The peroxide penetrates the dental enamel and reacts with the dentine underneath, whitening it. Home whitening kits are inexpensive and relatively simple to use, but there are some potential side effects. These can include damage to the tooth enamel and bleeding or blistering on the gums. These effects are much more likely to occur if you digest the solution or leave it in for too long. Following reports of harmful side effects, the government banned home whitening kits containing more than 6% hydrogen peroxide or 18% carbamide peroxide in 2013, further minimizing the danger of these negative side effects
Additionally, after using home whitening treatments, users may find that tooth discoloration quickly returns; the same chemicals that penetrate the enamel to eliminate staining actually leave dentine vulnerable to staining again.
Professional Whitening Treatments
An alternate whitening option is to have your dentist perform one of two treatments: traditional whitening and laser whitening.
In a traditional whitening, your dentist will take an impression of your teeth to create a mouthguard or bleaching tray. Fitted to your teeth, the tray ensures that only the perfect amount of whitening gel comes into contact with your tooth enamel. You will continue the treatment at home over the space of several weeks. Essentially, this is similar to home whitening, but with a plan created specifically for you by your dentist.
The second option is laser or power whitening. Also known as chairside whitening, this method is much quicker than traditional whitening. Your dentist will apply a whitening gel, then activate it with a beam of light. The treatment works in about an hour, making it by far the fastest method. However, it's more expensive than either home or traditional whitening. Patients who receive power whitening also sometimes report increased sensitivity in the teeth; this tingling sensation can last for several days.