The Specialist

The benefits of teeth whitening

Do you feel stuck with yellow or grayish-colored teeth? You may consider teeth whitening to help reinvigorate your smile. Teeth whitening is a relatively inexpensive yet effective cosmetic enhancer.

Today, professional in-office teeth whitening is the most popular of all cosmetic dental procedures. Unlike home-use systems that incorporate low-dose bleaching agents, in-office whitening done under carefully monitored conditions yield results that are noticed immediately. The good news is that the treatment is safe, controlled and pain-free.

Have you tried over-the-counter (OTC) whitening products such as whitening toothpastes, strips, mouthwashes and gels? Do you find that they just don’t get the job done? There is a safe and effective way to get your teeth multiple shades whiter at the dentist.

Whitening, also commonly called teeth bleaching, has been used in dental offices for many years. The most common active ingredient used for bleaching is hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide reacts with the darker ingredients in your teeth – the browns and yellows – and lightens them. The result is a whiter and brighter smile.

There are two types of discolorations on teeth: intrinsic and extrinsic stains.

Intrinsic stains are stains on the inside of the tooth. Aging, injury to the tooth, fluoride toxicity and exposure to antibiotics while your teeth were developing can cause intrinsic stains.

Extrinsic stains are discolorations on the tooth surface. This can be caused by general aging, tobacco, soda, red wine, tea, coffee and poor oral hygiene. Whitening agents can reduce stains caused by both types of discolorations, but the extrinsic stains are easier to remove.

There are a few ways to whiten your teeth:

The first is in-office whitening which uses high-concentration hydrogen peroxide and a special light to help accelerate whitening. Your dentist will first place a barrier over your gums for protection, paint on the whitening agent, then use the special light on your teeth for a period of up to one hour. Lights are typically within the blue spectrum, as blue light enhances the effect of the hydrogen peroxide. The action of the high-concentration hydrogen peroxide allows your teeth to be multiple shades whiter in about an hour. In-office whitening is the quickest way to get your teeth whiter. This method is popular for people looking for last-minute whitening for a big event – like a wedding, reunion, pictures, etc.

Another way to whiten teeth is dentist-prescribed at-home whitening. Your dentist will take impressions of your mouth, fabricate custom whitening trays on the models developed from the impressions and give you whitening gel to use at home. Common at-home whitening systems are used 30 minutes per day for up to two weeks. This is a very popular method allowing you the freedom of doing it yourself at home while being able to use prescription strength whitening agents.

The last way to whiten your teeth is using the OTC methods. You will see an aisle full of these at the pharmacy or food store. There are strips, trays, mouthwashes, toothpastes and pens. All of these methods have a lower concentration of whitening agent than what your dentist can prescribe taking longer or not ever reaching your desired results. The strips and trays are non-custom fitted.

Whitening does not work on most dental restorations. Hydrogen peroxide is meant to work on your natural tooth structure. So, if some of your front teeth have fillings or crowns, the whitening will not have an effect on these restorations. This will leave you with uneven whitening throughout your mouth.

Your dentist will be able to tell you which method of whitening will give you the best results. Instant teeth whitening gives you another reason to project a healthy smile.

• Dr. Kendal V.O. Major is the founder and CEO of the Center for Specialized Dentistry, which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in New Providence and Grand Bahama. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He is also a certified fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, New Providence. He can be contacted at (242) 325-5165 or

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