If you’re like many of our patients, you may have experimented with a variety of do-it-yourself teeth whitening products before inquiring about professional teeth whitening with your dentist. These products are so readily available in our everyday life now that it’s no wonder so many people use some kind of whitening product on their teeth.
Whitening toothpaste, whitening chewing gum, whitening mouth rinses, strips, gels and other products of the like often do not contain enough active ingredient to really provide the kind of whitening that you desire – but they do carry enough active ingredient to make teeth chronically sensitive. Many of the patients we see in our clinic complain of sensitive teeth due to whitening products.
While this is not ideal, this sensitivity is not an indication of anything wrong with the teeth or gums. This is simply an unfortunate temporary side effect which will discontinue within a few days after last exposure.
Why does the whitening product cause sensitivity?
Your teeth can be visualized as an onion – roots at the bottom and layers of onion from the outside through to its core. If onions had a small open chamber in their centre, the comparison would be near-perfect. The outer layer of the onion is the layer that comes into contact with almost anything that enters the mouth and offers protection (in the form of enamel). Enamel is a very hard substance that is not completely transparent, but it does offer enough transparency to show discolouration in the inner layers that form the bulk of the tooth (dentin). Dentin is quite sensitive and not as tough as enamel, so teeth rely on the enamel for protection against damage while chewing.
Not only is the enamel of the teeth partially transparent, but it is very porous. Enamel is made of many channels running from the dentin to the outer layer that interacts with the food we eat. These are the channels by which staining of the teeth is made possible – and so is whitening. Whitening products take advantage of these channels by using them to let the active ingredient (peroxide) penetrate to the dentin, where whitening really takes place.
The challenge for over-the-counter products is that they are not strong enough in concentration to be effective whiteners, but they are strong enough to cause chronic sensitivity if you are using them daily. This is because when the peroxide acts on the dentin, it has the effect of temporarily dehydrating it. As moisture leaves the dentin, pressure is increased in the chamber of the tooth – and your nerves will let you know.
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Axis Dental Clinic's Process
Our process to ensure that all of your dental needs are properly met and attended to.
2. Check Up
While sensitivity is an unfortunate reality for many, having your teeth whitened in a professional dental clinic will offer you more tools to combat these symptoms, such as rehydrating gel that speeds up the process of reintroducing moisture to those tissues and reduces symptoms significantly.
Some patients report that their teeth were comfortable when using whitening strips at home, but their gums became irritated and sore. This is because products like whitening strips are a one-size-fits-all approach to whitening. Since every mouth is unique, the strips must be large enough to ensure coverage of the teeth but in doing so the gums are not protected and the result is chemical burn.
When you have your teeth whitened in a dental clinic, care will be taken to minimize the potential for any soft tissue burning by placing a barrier over the gums prior to whitening.
Teeth whitening is a widely available service which has become so commonplace that it can often be done at the end of a routine checkup and cleaning, saving you the time of an additional appointment. Teeth whitening has become a very affordable and available process – so much so that we recommend coming to us before you spend your hard-earned dollars on whitening gum, rinse, strips, etc. which can quickly add up to being more costly than having it professionally done.
Checkups and Cleaning
If you have concerns about the shade of your teeth, you could be accumulating staining due to the presence of tartar. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen your dentist for your regular checkup, consider booking a cleaning to remove any surface staining before going forward with teeth whitening.
Habits like smoking, drinking red wine or sodas and black coffee should be reviewed if you are concerned about the shade of your teeth, since these are ‘stainers’ and will work against your teeth whitening efforts. Limiting sugars and simple carbs will keep bacteria levels in check inside the mouth and leave teeth less susceptible to staining and acid attack. Finally, to prevent staining in the future, make sure you are limiting plaque and tartar with a regular oral hygiene routine.
If you have questions about this or other services offered by our general dentist, contact our clinic today.