Dental aesthetics – lightening teeth

You don’t have to put up with the shade of your teeth if it makes smiling in photos difficult. So, whether your teeth are darkening with age, lifestyle or genetic factors, look at the options available for corrective lightening and how they work.

Chemical methods

How people perceive colour is all about what frequencies of light get absorbed by a material and what remaining frequencies get reflected back. These frequencies depend on the chemical composition of the outermost layer of the object, which when chemically altered, is known as bleaching. This results in a greater range of frequencies being reflected and far fewer being absorbed therefore lightening and brightening the surface.

This can be done with enamel in a similar way as hair is lightened using hydrogen peroxide, which turns teeth white or makes golden hair a ”peroxide blonde”. This technique can whiten your teeth up to 18 shades, but it can also make the enamel temporarily more permeable and susceptible to staining. Therefore, your dental team may also apply a fluoride sealant to prevent this from occurring.

Abrasion methods

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The natural and unblemished surface of your pearly whites is… white. Mostly, the darkening of teeth over time is extrinsic staining; material becoming attached to or permeating into only the first few micrometres of the enamel.

In such cases, the best lightening option is more akin to a deep clean and attempt to remove that stubbornly attached material on the outside of the teeth, while grinding away the outermost few microns of the enamel, revealing the lighter shades of enamel beneath. This abrasion-based tooth whitening is more similar to a scale and polish, and it might be wise to try a scale and polish first to remove tartar and create a glossy smooth surface to the teeth. With a scale and polish, you can significantly lighten teeth without the loss of enamel, which is unfortunately unavoidable when abrasion is used.

Counter indications

Teeth lightening is usually very safe. There are certain cases when it would be unwise; if you have any outstanding dental work to carry out, it would be a good idea to see it through first before engaging in tooth whitening. Any aesthetic work carried out would quickly deteriorate if the health and quality of your teeth are not good enough.

If you are planning to have some kind of oral prosthetic like a crown or white filling before dental whitening, mention this to your dentist Soho as they will attempt to match the colour of the prosthetic to your current teeth. Artificial enamel does not respond in the same way as natural enamel to lightening techniques, so it might be wise to have your prosthetics a slightly brighter shade than the rest of your smile and then lighten to match.

If you have recently had a root canal performed, this can be a problem for having your teeth whitened. This is because, generally, it is advisable to wait at least 2 months after having endodontics before engaging in dental whitening due to the sensitivity of the tooth and the healing of the surrounding gums.

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