Teeth whitening is simply a process of removing stains, discolouration and lightening teeth. It is among the most popular cosmetic dental processes, since it greatly improves the look of the teeth and it is reasonably affordable.

Whitening is never a one-time process as it will be repeated from time to time in order to achieve and maintain the brighter colour.

Teeth Whitening Procedures

Whitening has two main types of procedures. Vital whitening is a process performed on teeth that have live nerves. Non-vital whitening is another procedure done on a tooth, which has undergone the root canal treatment and that has got no live nerve anymore.

Enamel is the outer layer of a tooth. In this case, the colour of natural teeth is generated by the reflection and spreading of light out of the enamel, joined with the dentin’s colour under it.

It is the individual’s genes that affect both the smoothness and thickness of the enamel. So, thinner enamel permits more of the dentin’s color to show through. Having rougher or smoother enamel also affects the light’s reflection and the colour as well.

Each day, a thin coating called pellicle forms on the enamel and later picks up stains. It is good to note that tooth enamel contains pores hence holds stains.

Common reasons why teeth get stained or yellow:

• The use of tobacco
• Continuous drinking of dark-colored liquids, e.g. cola, coffee, tea and red wine
• Neglecting teeth by not taking good care

Aging also contributes to stained teeth since dentin becomes darker and the enamel gets thinner. Having stains inside the tooth is referred to as intrinsic stains and can be caused by too much exposure to fluoride in children when the teeth are still developing.

Other causes which can stain child’s teeth are tetracycline antibiotics (drugs / chemicals) if either taken by a mother in the second half of pregnancy or by a child at the age of 8 years and below.

Risks of Teeth Whitening

Whitening is not likely to cause any serious side effects, even though some people's teeth may be more sensitive for a short while. However, one may get mild gum irritation.

Teeth whitening should not be carried out on pregnant women because the effect of the whitening materials on the development of the fetus is not known and guaranteed therefore the exercise should be postponed until after delivery.

Teeth whitening treatments are only safe when procedures are adhered to as directed. However, there exist some risks associated with bleaching:

Sensitivity - teeth whitening can cause a temporary rise in sensitivity to pressure, temperature and touch, especially when higher concentration bleach is used. Whitening sensitivity lasts only for less than a day or two though in some cases it may persist up to a month and it is here where dentists recommend a potassium nitrate toothpaste for sensitive teeth.

Gum irritation - this is mostly found on those individuals who use peroxide whiteners resulting from contact with the whitening trays or the bleach concentration. Gum irritation may last for several days and dissipates when bleaching stops or when the concentration of peroxide is lowered.

Image Credit: https://www.glasgowsmileclinic.com/treatments/teeth-whitening/