Bleaching - Namibian Dental Association

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Q: What can I do about stained or discolored teeth?

A: Teeth whitening or bleaching has become an important aesthetic concern for many patients.

Professional teeth whitening (or bleaching) is a simple, non-invasive dental treatment used to change the color of natural tooth enamel, and is an ideal way to enhance the beauty of your smile.  Over-the-counter products are also available, but are much less effective than professional treatments.

As we age, the outer layer of tooth enamel wears away, eventually revealing a darker or yellow shade.  The color of our teeth also comes from the inside of the tooth, which may become darker over time.  Smoking, drinking coffee, tea, and wine may also contribute to tooth discoloration, making our teeth yellow and dull.  Sometimes, teeth can become discolored from taking certain medications as a child, such as tetracycline.  Excessive fluoridation (fluorosis) during tooth development can also cause teeth to become discolored.

It’s important to have your teeth evaluated by your dentist to determine if you’re a good candidate for bleaching.  Occasionally, tetracycline and fluorosis stains are difficult to bleach and your dentist may offer other options, such as veneers or crowns to cover up such stains.  Since teeth whitening only works on natural tooth enamel, it is also important to evaluate the condition of any old fillings, crowns, etc. before bleaching begins.  Once the bleaching is done, your dentist can match any new restorations that are needed to the shade of your newly whitened teeth.

Since teeth whitening is not permanent, a touch-up may be needed from time to time to keep your smile looking bright.

The most widely used professional teeth whitening system is the home teeth whitening system: At-home products usually come in a gel form that is placed in a custom-fitted bleaching tray (mouthguard), made on a mold of your teeth.  The trays are worn preferably overnight while you sleep.  It usually takes several weeks to achieve the desired results depending on the degree of staining and the desired level of whitening.

Some patients may experience tooth sensitivity after having their teeth whitened.  This sensation is temporary and subsides shortly after you complete the bleaching process, usually within a few days.

Teeth whitening can be very effective and can give you a brighter, whiter, more confident smile!

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