Teeth whitening

What is teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening is the procedure carried out by the dentist in order to improve the color of the patient’s teeth and also to increase their brightness. Thanks to the whitening process, patients with yellow or discolored teeth can improve the appearance of their teeth and regain a healthy and bright smile.

Why do teeth become discolored?

The color of the teeth varies from person to person, with shades of yellow or even gray being more common. Some are born with noticeably yellower teeth, while others complain that their teeth gradually lose their original bright color and become darker and yellow.

Over time, the teeth slowly lose their bright color and become more yellow and dark. This is a normal development, as over the years a greater amount of dentin is deposited inside the teeth. Dentin (dental tissue under the tooth enamel) naturally has a darker yellow color and is essentially what determines the color of our teeth. The deposition of dentin combined with the erosion of tooth enamel, which also occurs with the passing of years, often justify the phenomenon of tooth discoloration.

Various other factors that are also responsible for the change in the color of the teeth are smoking, drinking red wine or soft drinks with dyes, etc. Also, poor oral hygiene leads to the retention of plaque and tartar on the surface of the teeth, as a result of which the teeth appear discolored and yellow. Old decayed fillings, as well as black amalgam fillings, give teeth a gray or yellow color. The same dark gray color is often exhibited by denervated teeth or teeth that have died and need to be denervated. In addition, teeth with old metal-ceramic dental crowns (cases) show a gray color in the gum area.

When should a patient have whitening?

So a patient who sees the color of his teeth changing and is not happy with their color as he faces a dark yellow, brown or gray smile, teeth whitening can offer him the desired aesthetic result. How many times do we remember a colleague who had a distinctive single black tooth? It is most likely that this tooth had been denervated in the past and over time it “turned black”. In this case, whitening can give the patient a beautiful and bright smile again.

Πώς γίνεται η λεύκανση δοντιών?

For the whitening process, a whitening substance in the form of a gel is placed on the yellow or discolored teeth, which releases oxygen. The oxygen in turn neutralizes the pigments, without wearing down the teeth. The bleaching substances used in teeth whitening are two:

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Carbamide peroxide

These two bleaching agents are used in various concentrations. Carbamide peroxide is the one that has been applied more often in recent years compared to hydrogen peroxide.

How do whitening agents work on teeth?

These substances are placed on the surface of the teeth and gradually penetrate the enamel and dentin. There they self-activate and break down into water and reactive hydroxyl ions. The hydroxyl ions in turn attach to the pigment particles and chemically degrade them. The action of whitening agents can be enhanced by the application of special whitening lamps, LEDs or lasers.

What are the whitening techniques? Home whitening or in-office whitening?

  • Bleaching at the dental office
  • Whitening at home
  • Combination of whitening in the dental office and at home

Bleaching in the dental office: Bleaching in the office is done under the supervision of the dentist and lasts about 1 hour. Dentists first thoroughly clean the gums to remove tartar and polish (polish) the teeth. The gums are then isolated with a special isolation material, so that the bleaching material does not come into contact with the gums and irritate them. Immediately after, the whitening substance is placed on the dental surface of the teeth to be bleached. The material remains on the teeth according to the manufacturer’s instructions (usually 30 – 40 minutes). Finally the dentists rinse off the whitening material and the patient is ready with a bright and shiny smile.

In-office whitening requires 2 – 3 sessions of one hour each to change the color of the teeth satisfactorily. Some patients are happy with 2 sessions while others with 4 sessions. Visible noticeable results with in-office whitening are usually visible after the second session, always depending on the patient’s tooth color and the brightness that the interested party wishes to achieve. It makes sense that yellow or very dark gray teeth will whiten faster and more dramatically than teeth that are already white. As for the cost, this depends on the number of sessions the patient wishes to have.

Bleaching at home: Home whitening is essentially carried out by the patient himself, who wears special whitening pads which he fills with whitening material given to him by the dentist. At the first appointment, the dentists will clean the patient’s gums and teeth and proceed to take an impression, which will be sent to the dental technician to make custom-made whitening trays for the patient. There are also pre-made underarms for whitening on the market, but they are difficult to adapt exactly to the mouth of each patient. With pre-made underarms, there is a chance that the bleaching agent will be pushed to the gums and irritate them. For this reason, it is better for the patient to have customized mouthpieces made by the dentist that fit exactly on his own teeth.

At the second appointment, the brace is ready and the dentists check if it fits exactly on the patient’s teeth. If everything is fine, then the dentist delivers the cheek pads together with the whitening substance to the patient and gives him the necessary instructions for use and application of the material. On the market there are many bleaching substances with different contents. Therefore, depending on the selected material, the patient wears the armpit filled with the whitening substance 4-8 hours a day for 7-15 days. As far as the period of time (how many days) the patient has to wear the brace depends quite a bit on how white he would like his teeth to become.

Combination of whitening in the dental office and at home: It is a combination of the above two techniques. Depending on the technique and philosophy of each dentist, a whitening session is first performed in the office and the patient continues the whitening at home for 7-10 days at home or vice versa, the whitening is first performed at home by the patient and in a second phase a session is performed whitening at the doctor’s office. It is worth noting that with this particular technique the patient has the best and most stable result he could obtain.

Many times patients wonder which method gives the best results? The answer is that a different whitening technique “suits” each patient.

What must be noted is that the difference between the two techniques lies in the duration of the whitening effect. Whitening at home yields more intense and stable results over time. On the other hand, in-office whitening immediately gives the patient a bright smile, when the conditions require a quick bright tooth result.

Can all patients undergo whitening?

A necessary condition for a patient to perform teeth whitening is to have healthy gums and teeth. A patient with gingivitis, periodontitis, decayed teeth, residual teeth, etc. he should first treat the major dental problems in his mouth and then proceed with teeth whitening.

Who cannot do teeth whitening?

Of course, it is worth noting that whitening cannot be performed on all patients. Since the whitening material can only act on natural teeth and not on artificial prosthetic restorations, whitening cannot be applied to patients who have fillings, crowns, bridges, porcelain veneers or resin veneers on their front teeth. Finally, bleaching is recommended not to be applied to pregnant and nursing mothers, since there is still insufficient research data to rule out the effect of bleaching materials on both the development of the fetus and the composition of breast milk.