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Find out how to whiten teeth with Dervla Leavy Dental Care
We all aspire to have gleaming white teeth to form a welcoming smile, but depending on health factors such as what we eat and drink, and how regularly we clean our teeth, they can become beige and unappealing. In fact, having perfectly white teeth not only enhances physical appearance; it can also have a psychological impact on a person, making them feel good about themselves knowing that they can boast a sparkling white smile. For many people who struggle to achieve this organically, a very attractive option is that of teeth whitening. This can be brought about through dental surgery and teeth whitening products, so read on for all the information you need to know on how to whiten teeth.
What is the best way to whiten teeth?This video shows a demonstration of the procedures involved for both laser teeth whitening and tray-based teeth whitening, helping you to decide which is the best way to whiten teeth.
Laser Teeth Whitening
Also known as laser bleaching, this entails the direct application of concentrated gels to teeth prior to the teeth being whitened using a laser. This procedure usually lasts approximately 40 minutes and the effects are instantly visible. Also, teeth can be targeted individually, allowing for a highly precise operation, and as the entire procedure is carried out by a dentist, it is regarded as the safest form of teeth whitening. Anyone considering this surgery, though, is advised that only the front 10 teeth in each row can be whitened in this fashion, while teeth might feel a bit sore on the day of treatment.How it works:
1. The dentist firstly cleans your teeth and gums to remove all food particles and bacteria.
2. The dentist applies whitening gel to your teeth by brushing the whitening solution onto your teeth and covering your dental enamel. It is very important that the whitening solution does not touch off your gums, as it can irritate soft tissues, although the dentist will most likely insert a protective barrier for the gums beforehand. The gel is usually applied three times, with 5-10 minutes between each application.
3. The gel is left to set on your teeth for 15 minutes before the dentist removes the layer and adds a new round of whitening agent.
4. The dentist may recommend multiple treatments and the majority of patients will require at least two treatments to get their desired results.
Tray-Based Teeth Whitening
This involves teeth whitening gel being placed in a made-to-fit mouth guard which is worn for a defined period of time, usually dependent on the concentration of peroxide gel. The trays should be worn for every day of the treatment, which usually lasts 3-4 weeks, although they only need to be worn for 30-60 minutes daily for the effects to take hold. This is a cost-effective approach, although speech may be difficult while the trays are being worn.How it works:
1. The dentist creates impressions of your teeth so that he/she can create trays that are custom fitted for you. He/she also advises on how best to use the trays and care for them.
2. You then use a syringe to place the whitening gel directly into the tray and fit it over your teeth. The whitening agent will remain inside the tray after it is placed in your mouth.
3. The strength of the whitening gel will determine how long the treatment takes to work effectively. It is best to wear the tray for 30-60 minutes.
4. The dentist may recommend teeth whitening treatments every few months, or whenever stains begin to reappear. Be careful not to whiten your teeth too often, as this could permanently erode the teeth’s enamel.
How much does teeth whitening cost?
Although costs may vary for a number of reasons, the average cost of laser teeth whitening is roughly €580, while you can expect to pay in the region of €350 for tray-based teeth whitening.
What causes stained teeth?
Teeth can become stained and discoloured for a number of reasons, prompting people to think seriously about teeth whitening surgery. A few of the most common factors of teeth staining are:
Age: Your teeth will naturally appear less white as your grow older, with the accumulation of stains and the possibility of damage taking its toll. Also, the outer enamel of teeth gradually wears away over time to reveal the dentin’s natural yellow colour. Teenagers will usually see immediate effects from teeth whitening, but for people in their 20s and 30s, the effects can take longer to take hold. By the time a person reaches their mid-40s, teeth stains can become very hard to remove, even with teeth whitening surgery.
Dietary habits: What you eat and drink can leave a lasting impact on the whiteness of your teeth. Red wine, tea, coffee, soft drinks, candy, hard sweets and any food with a deep colour can all stain your teeth enormously, and the same goes for acidic flavourings such as salt, sugar and vinegar. Excessive consumption of these can damage your teeth to such an extent that even whitening may not be able to restore a healthy appearance to the affected teeth.
Fluoride: High fluoride levels in drinking water, rinses and some toothpastes can cause discolouring of your teeth.
Genetics: It can happen that some people have naturally darker, thinner tooth enamel than others.
Medications: Certain medications such as antidepressants, antihistamines and drugs for high blood pressure can cause discolouring in teeth. Also, children aged 8 and under who take tetracycline and doxycycline antibiotics while their permanent teeth are developing may experience intrinsic discolouration on these teeth.
Poor dental hygiene: We are told from a very young age that it is hugely important to brush our teeth at least twice a day. It only takes two minutes of our day to complete this simple act, but so many of us neglect to brush and floss our teeth, and our oral hygiene suffers massively and lastingly as a result.
Smoking: Every time you smoke tobacco, the nicotine leaves a brown-coloured residue that gradually works its way from the surface of the tooth to its core, rotting the tooth from the inside.
Teeth grinding and gnashing: People who are frequently or excessively stressed are prone to grinding or gnashing their teeth subconsciously. If this happens regularly, teeth can be gradually cracked over time and the biting edges of frontal teeth become darkened.
Tooth colour at birth: At birth, we all have an inborn tooth colour, usually either yellow/brown or green/grey, and this colour will intensify with the passing of time. People with a green/grey tooth tone are more likely to consider teeth whitening, as they often require a greater need for bleaching.
Trauma: Serious injuries, particularly those of a facial nature, can lead to significant tooth damage, and cracks in your teeth can accumulate stains and debris which darken their appearance hugely.
How to take care of your teeth
Teeth whitening is just part of the process if you crave a gleaming smile. Stains can reappear in the weeks and months after whitening, so it’s essential that you practice good care for your teeth on a consistent basis so that the positive effects of teeth whitening aren’t cancelled out through subsequent negligence. Here are some tips that you should observe to maintain a high level of whiteness in your teeth:
• Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
• Wait until 30 minutes after a meal to brush your teeth, as doing so immediately after eating will only push stain-causing molecules and sugars into the teeth’s enamel. Rinse your mouth out with water immediately after a meal instead.
• Floss daily and use anti-bacterial mouthwash daily.
• Get a dental check-up every 6 months.
• Do not smoke.
• Minimise your intake of stain-causing beverages such as fizzy drinks, fruit juices, black tea, coffee and red wine.
• Likewise, keep consumption of stain-causing foods like red berries, ketchup and soy sauce to a minimum.
• If certain medications will cause your teeth to become stained, ask your dentist what you can do to alleviate the effects of these.
• Never perform teeth whitening without first consulting your dentist. Overdoing it could lead to permanent tooth sensitivity and enamel erosion.
The benefits of whiter teeth are numerous and wide-ranging
• Your facial appearance is drastically improved, leaving you looking younger and healthier.
• You will feel a lot more self-confident.
• Other people are likely to take notice and compliment you about it.
• It could even leave a lasting impression on a recruiter if you’re going for a job interview.
• The effects are visible almost immediately.
• The procedure is very safe and quick, making it ideal for people who seek dental treatment but may be anxious about doing so.
• It is more affordable and less invasive than other cosmetic dentistry procedures.
Is teeth whitening safe?
Teeth whitening is very much a safe procedure, although there are some points that anyone considering the surgery should know beforehand.
Teeth whitening can cause a temporary increase in tooth sensitivity and mild irritation of the mouth’s soft tissues, such as the gums. Tooth sensitivity is most likely to occur in the early stages of treatment, while tissue irritation often comes from a mouthpiece that is not correctly fitted. However, these pains usually last only for a couple of days after getting the treatment, and can be helped by measures such as wearing trays for a shorter length of time or putting a two-day stop to whitening your teeth.
Also, teeth whitening surgery is generally not recommended for anyone who fits any of the below circumstances:
• High tooth and/or gum sensitivity
• An allergy to peroxide (the agent most often used in teeth whitening)
• Anyone with gum disease or worn tooth enamel
• Anyone with fillings, crowns or previous tooth restorations
Are there teeth whitening regulations that dentists must follow?
There are certain regulations to which dentists must adhere when undertaking teeth whitening procedures, as set out by Statutory Instrument 396 of 2012. A maximum hydrogen peroxide concentration of 6% (equal to 16.62% carbamide peroxide) can be used, and products containing a legal amount of hydrogen peroxide must meet the following conditions:
• They can only be sold to qualified dental practitioners.
• For each cycle of use, their first use must come from a dental practitioner before being passed to a consumer to complete the cycle of use.
• They cannot be used on a person under the age of 18.
In addition, any dentist performing teeth whitening procedures has a number of responsibilities to his/her patient, as advised by the Dental Council. These include:
• Examining the patient to determine if they are suitable for teeth whitening surgery
• Conducting and documenting this examination carefully
• Refraining from selling to patients any teeth whitening product containing or releasing more than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide
• Minimising the patient’s risk of swallowing bleaching agent
• Fitting an appropriately-sized tray properly in the patient’s mouth
• Ensuring that the patient can seat the tray properly in their mouth
• Ensuring that the patient can properly load an appropriate amount of bleaching agent into the tray
• Noting all instructions given to the patient at their first appointment in the patient’s record
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