Teeth whitening vs. teeth bleaching — did you know there’s a difference between the two?
The FDA states that whitening restores natural tooth color, while bleaching whitens beyond the natural color. There are many methods to whiten teeth, such as brushing, bleaching strips, bleaching pen, bleaching gel, laser bleaching, and natural bleaching.
How do these methods of cosmetic whitening and bleaching work?
Whitening toothpaste whitens teeth slightly by removing surface stains, such as those caused by drinking coffee or smoking. Whitening toothpaste can also be used after a bleaching treatment to help maintain results. However, whitening toothpaste can’t change the natural color of teeth or reverse discoloration caused by excessive exposure to fluoride during tooth development, penetrating surface stains or decay. To remove surface stains, whitening toothpaste may include special abrasives that gently polish the teeth, or chemicals, such as sodium tripolyphosphate, that help break down or dissolve stains. At-home whitening kits use trays containing a carbamide peroxide gel which reacts with water to form hydrogen peroxide. Carbamide peroxide has about a third of the strength of hydrogen peroxide.
Over the counter whitening kits whiten with small strips that are placed over the front teeth. The peroxide oxidizing agent penetrates the teeth via tiny pores in the rod-like crystal structure of enamel and bleaches away stain deposits in the dentin.
Whitening pens work in a similar manner to strips or trays, but they are not as strong of a formulation. Whitening pens are excellent for removing small stains or whitening areas that are not terribly discolored.
Power bleaching or “light assisted” bleaching uses light energy via UV, LED, halogen, or plasma light to accelerate the process of bleaching in a dental office setting. A power bleaching treatment typically involves isolation of soft tissue with a resin-based, light-curable barrier, application of a professional dental-grade hydrogen peroxide whitening gel (25-38% hydrogen peroxide), and exposure to the light source for 6–15 minutes
What are the risks of bleaching and whitening treatments?
Side effects of teeth bleaching include, but are not limited to:
- Chemical burns from gel bleaching (if a high-concentration oxidizing agent contacts unprotected tissues, which may bleach or discolor mucous membranes), sensitive teeth - Overbleaching (known in the profession as “bleached effect”, particularly with the intensive treatments (products that provide a large change in tooth colour over a very short treatment period, e.g., 1 hour) - Pain if you have “sensitive teeth” caused by open dentinal tubules - Risk of increased hot/cold sensitivity - Increased risk of tongue cancer
In general, however, bleaching and whitening treatments are considered very safe, when used responsibly.
If you are interested in professional whitening or bleaching, give us a call at our Ann Arbor dental office today at 734-677-2156 to schedule an appointment.