Teeth are one of the most visible features on a face, and luckily, a lot can be done to improve their appearance. One of the simplest and most effective ways to do this is by teeth whitening. Though teeth whitening may appear to be a recent development, the history of teeth whitening goes back several thousand years. It is believed that ancient Egyptians used a paste made of ground pumice stone and white vinegar to whiten their teeth, 4,000 years ago. Teeth whitening as we know it today, using bleaching methods, began in the late 1980s. Customers can now opt for a range of professional or over-the-counter treatments to whiten their teeth.
Before customers decide which whitening treatment to choose, they should thoroughly understand the many available options. Buyers should also consider the state of their teeth and any prior repairs before choosing a teeth whitening treatment. Finally, buyers should know how to choose and purchase teeth whitening treatments from a reliable source.
What is Teeth Whitening?
Teeth slowly discolour over time. This can be caused by medication, coloured beverages, or age. Some of the most common causes of teeth discolouration (called "chromogenic agents") are tetracycline, coffee, tea, colas, tobacco, and red wine.
Teeth whitening (also called "dental bleaching") includes several methods used to bring teeth back to white. Basic teeth whitening includes brushing with toothpaste and flossing regularly. These methods mechanically remove surface stains, but do not offer dramatic results. Other methods of teeth whitening work by bleaching the dentin, the layer of the teeth beneath the enamel. These methods result in more drastic changes, sometimes with an improvement of up to seven shades. A graded set of dental colour shades or whitening shade guides are used to measure tooth colour and results. The results of bleaching can last for several months, depending on what is eaten and drunk. Teeth whitening dental procedures are used in general dentistry, but are more common in cosmetic dentistry.
How Dental Bleaching with Peroxide Works
Popular bleaching methods make use of either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. The ability of peroxide to whiten teeth was discovered accidentally. Peroxide was used as an antiseptic gel for the gums. As dentists developed ways to keep the gel in contact with the gums longer, they discovered that the gel also whitened teeth.
Teeth are made in layers. The outer layer is called the enamel, and it is this layer that protects teeth and gives them their shine. Enamel is semi-translucent and the dentin, or the layer below the enamel, shows through. Dentin is usually yellow, but it may also be grey, brown, or black. When a peroxide solution is placed on the enamel it opens the pores of the enamel, allowing the solution to reach the dentin layer. The peroxide then bleaches, or lightens, the dentin resulting in whiter teeth. The effectiveness of this treatment depends on the concentration of the peroxide bleaching agent and the length of time it remains in contact with the teeth.
Peroxide bleaches tend to dehydrate teeth, and this results in increased sensitivity until the teeth rehydrate. Rehydration results in teeth darkening again, although they remain whiter than they were previously, because of the removal of stains.
Types of Teeth Whitening Treatments
There are numerous teeth whitening treatments available today, and all of them are easily accessible. They range from inexpensive, over-the-counter products to more expensive, professional treatments carried out by dentists. Some of them make use of peroxides to whiten the dentin, while others use mild abrasives to remove stains from the surface of teeth.
Over-the-counter treatments are available at brick-and-mortar stores or online. They are cheaper than professional treatments, but the level of whitening achieved varies.
Brushes and Toothpaste
One of the most common methods of removing surface stains, brushes and toothpastes are also one of the most effective. Users must brush regularly and use proper technique. Some dentists recommend the use of electric toothbrushes, as they do a better job at cleaning than does manual brushing. There are several types of "whitening" toothpastes which may contain carbamide peroxide, an abrasive agent, or both.
Bleaching Gels and Tray Whitening
Bleaching gels usually contain carbamide peroxide. These are placed in a tray, which is then placed over the teeth. The length of time the gel should remain in contact with the teeth and the total duration of the treatment both depend on the concentration of the peroxide in the bleaching gel. Many bleaching gels include a gelling agent to ensure the product is thick and gooey enough to remain on the teeth. Some include desensitising agents to help decrease the tooth sensitivity bleaching causes. Many gels also come in different flavours.
Over-the-counter bleaching trays are much cheaper than custom-made trays. However, they do not provide as perfect a fit. Even trays that allow users to make impressions of their teeth do not fit as well as custom-made trays. Since the effectiveness of a bleaching treatment depends on the bleaching gel maintaining contact with the teeth, a proper fit is important. Bleaching gel can escape from loose trays and cause irritation of soft tissues in the mouth.
Also called "whitening strips", bleaching strips allow users to apply comparatively effective whitening treatments on their own. They do not require trays or gels, unlike other over-the-counter treatments. Teeth whitening strips are clear, flexible pieces of thin polyethylene. One side of the strip is coated with hydrogen peroxide. Strips are positioned over teeth, gently pressed into place, and are worn for some time. They may be applied once or twice a day, depending on the manufacturer. The length of time strips should remain on teeth and the duration of the treatment depend on the concentration of the peroxide. For example, a six per cent hydrogen peroxide whitener is usually intended for a treatment period of 14 days, while a ten per cent whitener is meant to be used for a week. There are two major advantages to bleaching strips:
- The whitener is applied by the manufacturer. As a result, dosage is uniform and controlled.
- The uncoated side of the strip acts as a barrier that protects the rest of the mouth from the peroxide solution. It also discourages saliva from diluting the solution.
The end result is greater overall effectiveness and a decrease in the risk of side effects.
Paint-on Tooth Whiteners
Paint-on whiteners are simply peroxide gels that are applied directly to the teeth, either by brush or by pen. The type of peroxide used varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Paint-on whiteners are applied by painting the bleaching agent onto the front of the teeth. The length of time that the bleaching agent should remain in contact with teeth ranges from 30 minutes to a full night. As with other bleaching whiteners, this depends on the concentration of the peroxide; users should carefully follow manufacturer instructions. The whitener stays on the teeth because it hardens, solidifies, and adheres to the teeth. Most paint-on whiteners stick to teeth better if the teeth have been dried before application. Users must use a toothbrush to completely remove any whitener after an application.
Paint-on whiteners can be applied selectively to individual teeth. They are simple to apply and do not require trays. They are also relatively inexpensive.
Teeth Whitening Pens
Teeth whitening pens, sometimes called "bleaching pens", use the same principle as paint-on whiteners. However, the whitening gel is already in the pen and, as a result, users only have to carry and use one piece of equipment.
Professional In-office Treatments
In-office treatments by dentists are more expensive than over-the-counter options. These treatments first cover the gums with a protective, light-cured layer, to reduce the risk of chemical burns. Just as with other bleaching treatments, the agents used are carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. In-office bleaching can be accelerated using light.
Professional Take Home Treatments
Take home treatments typically contain a custom-fit tray. These are superior to over-the-counter trays and increase the effectiveness of the bleaching agent used. Professional take home treatments are cheaper than in-office treatments.
Factors to Consider Before Beginning a Teeth Whitening Treatment
Buyers must take several steps and precautions before using any teeth whitening treatment. These steps include a visit to the dentist to have their teeth checked. Users must also understand they must follow instructions carefully. And they must realise that all teeth whitening treatments have their limitations. All of these considerations are discussed in detail, below.
Visit the Dentist
Users must have their teeth checked by a dentist before beginning a teeth whitening treatment. Dentists should make a thorough examination, including checking for allergies and sensitivities, observing hard and soft tissues, the presence and condition of restorations, and may order x-rays to check for irregularities. Dentists recommend or discourage teeth whitening treatments based on their findings. They can also find and repair any cavities before users begin a treatment.
Bleaching agents are chemicals, and care should be taken when using them. Follow manufacturer's instructions to the letter. Different bleaching agents contain different concentrations of peroxide. What works for one may not work for another.
Limitations of Teeth Whitening Treatments
Teeth whitening treatments do not work equally well in all situations. Some of the most common limitations are described below. These limitations include repaired or filled teeth, or teeth that have undergone a root canal procedure. There are also risks to the procedure. These risks and limitations are examined further in the following sections.
Repaired and Filled Teeth
Whitening treatments do not work on fillings and bondings. These are usually colour-matched to the tooth. Whitening agents lighten the tooth, resulting in fillings that appear too dark.
Root Canaled Teeth
Teeth that have internal staining or which have been root canaled may not respond to standard whitening procedures. Internal tooth whitening, an in-office procedure, and permanent restorations are options in this situation.
Acid-based treatments were once a popular means of whitening teeth. Unfortunately, they tend to erode the enamel layer. Buyers must choose a whitening treatment that uses peroxide and is pH balanced.
Risks of Teeth Whitening Treatments
If used properly, over-the-counter whitening treatments are safe. However, due to the lack of research, teeth whitening treatments are not recommended for pregnant women or breast-feeding mothers. They should not be used on children below the age of 16, either. When used improperly, users run the risk of chemical burns. One side-effect of teeth whitening treatments that may make such a procedure impractical for some users is increased tooth sensitivity.
How to Find Teeth Whitening Treatments on eBay
Buyers looking for over-the-counter teeth whitening treatments can find a wide range to choose from on eBay. Buyers can visit the eBay home page and begin a search. Buyers looking for a particular whitening treatment can enter specific keywords into the search bar. For example, a search for "teeth whitening strips" displays all available teeth whitening strips on eBay. It is possible for buyers to hone down a general search by choosing from several criteria, such as the brand, the price, and the type of treatment.
Before committing to a purchase, buyers should review a seller's return and exchange policy, in case the purchased whitening treatment does not meet expectations. If the return policy information is not available on the item's page, buyers may contact the seller directly. Buyers can also contact sellers to arrange local pickup or delivery, if both parties are in the same area and are comfortable with the arrangement.
Teeth whitening treatments have been used for many hundreds of years to remove stains and whiten teeth. Today, teeth whitening treatments are available over-the-counter, and can easily and effectively be applied by users themselves. Today's whitening treatments use peroxide bleaching agents that penetrate the enamel and lighten the dentin, the layer below it. The enamel is actually translucent, so it is the colour of the dentin that determines the shade of a tooth. Teeth whitening treatments are not for everyone, and buyers must consult a dentist before beginning a whitening treatment. This step ensures that buyers are not allergic to any treatments, and that any cavities are taken care of before the treatment begins. Whitening treatments are also not as effective on teeth that have been repaired, or have undergone root canal procedures. Though safe when used correctly, bleaching gels should not be used by pregnant or lactating women, or by children under age 16. Buyers looking for over-the-counter whitening treatments online can choose from a diverse selection on eBay.