There are many choices, both professionally and over-the-counter, when it comes to teeth whitening or teeth bleaching. It's important to know the differences.
Tooth whitening is used to provide a person with whiter brighter teeth. Stains from tobacco, food and beverage are the usual reasons to use tooth whitening products. Other reasons for the use of tooth whitening systems are age, genetic factors, and some drugs that cause discoloration of teeth. Carbamide peroxide is the active ingredient that whitens or bleaches the enamel of the tooth. In addition, the peroxide in tooth bleaching products is an oxidizing agent that acts like a "pool shock" to obtund the growth of bacteria responsible for periodontal disease.
Tooth whitening falls into two categories: extrinsic - removal of surface discoloration, and intrinsic - changing the color of the tooth (sometimes referred to as bleaching). Brushing teeth (extrinsic) physically removes colored biofilm adhering to teeth and uncovering the natural enamel underneath. Chemical bleaching (intrinsic) penetrates the surface and actually whitens the enamel. The bleaching procedure can be done with professionallyprepared product either in a dental office or at home under dentist supervision. It can also be done at home using over-the-counter products, which in the last five years have exploded on the market.
The carbamide peroxide in the professional version of teeth whiting usually is 20 - 35% peroxide. It requires mouth trays to hold the tooth whitening gel.Because of the higher concentration, the gums may burn and teeth may become more sensitive. This is why a shield or protective coating is often applied to the gums. Some procedures use heat or light to accelerate the whiting. Generally speaking, the faster and whiter the results, the more prone to sensitivity the teeth become. The dental office whitening is the most expensive and usually gets the most even whitening results. It is not permanent, lasting about one to two years.
Bleaching teeth at home under the dentist supervision requires a custom made mouth tray and uses professional level carbamide peroxide in the product. One advantage of this method is that it is done in the home at the user's convenience. It also can be done slower over a period of days, weeks or months and reduces the sensitivity while gradually obtaining a natural whiter look. In addition, it is less expensive than the dental office visit. The percentage of carbamide peroxide is generally higher than in the over-the-counter varieties.
There is an array of bleaching kits available over-the-counter. They include gels, strips, trays, toothpastes and rinses. The amount of active ingredient also varies from product to product. It is important to note that the carbamide peroxide (the form of peroxide in whitening products) has a shelf life. In other words, the longer it is on the shelf, the less potent it becomes. Although refrigeration slows the process down considerably, this item is not purchased refrigerated.
Another method for tooth whitening uses the Dental Air Force® system with hydrogen peroxide. This tooth whitening method is a gradual safer process and provides both extrinsic tooth whitening and intrinsic tooth whitening. Because the Dental Air Force® system also replaces tooth brushing and flossing, the tooth whitening aspect is continuously maintained on a daily basis without cumbersome trays or visits to the dental office.
Dr. Piero, a practicing dentist for over twenty five years, is the inventor of Dental Air Force® (www.dentalairforce.com). Articles published are on periodontal health related to heart disease, respiratory health, diabetes, strokes, and other systemic diseases. He is the Executive Editor for Journal of Experimental Dental Science, a contributing author to Hospital Infection Control: Clinical Guidelines and soon-to-be published book, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.