How does it work?
As we age, our teeth discolour for various reasons. Coffee, tea, red wine, and cigarettes are the most common reasons for external discolouration. Trauma, fillings, root canal treatments, or having taken (certain) antibiotics as a child are the most common reasons for internal discolouration. The dentist determines the best treatment depending on the cause of the discolouration. External discolouration is usually easy to remove thanks to the oxidating effect of hydrogen peroxide. This product binds with the pigments that cause the discolouration in the teeth and makes the teeth whiter. Depending on the severity of th discolouration, this needs to be repeated a few times. We differentiate between three different treatments.
This is the most commonly used treatment and also the most recommended method. It consists of two steps. During the first treatment, the teeth are checked for cavities and cleaned if necessary. After this, dental impressions are immediately made to check if everything is healthy. Based on these dental impressions, individual bleaching trays are made from transparent plastic that fits nicely over the teeth, leaving a tiny area for the bleaching agent.
After this, the patient returns to the practice a few days later to fit the bleaching trays. The shape and closure are checked to prevent the bleaching agent from leaking and ensure the bleaching agent works optimally. Once the bleaching trays fit perfectly, the patient will receive complete instructions on how to bleach the teeth safely at home. This is usually done for two consecutive weeks, with the option of extending this period by a few more weeks, depending on the desired result. With the new products on the market, one hour a day usually suffices, but a full night is recommended in some cases.
The biggest advantages of home bleaching are that it is up to the patient to determine (in consultation with the dentist) the shade of bleaching (within feasible limits), and the bleaching trays can be kept and reused after 6 to 12 months to maintain the new shade of the teeth. The initial result always deteriorates a bit after a few months when consuming strongly discolouring products such as tea, coffee etc., or smoking cigarettes.
This entire treatment is done at the practice (hence the name in-office). Here, the bleaching product is applied directly to the teeth after the gums are covered to prevent irritation and/or sensitivity. After this, the product is further activated with a plasma light and heat to accelerate the bleaching process. Subsequently, this is repeated 2, 3, or 4 times during a single treatment session that lasts approximately 1.5 to 2 hours. This treatment is slightly more expensive, but it gives a much quicker result. The cost of this treatment includes a bleaching tray set to maintain or further optimise the result at home.
This method usually does not suffice for resistant and often internal discolouration, so we will recommend an in-office laserbleaching. These treatments are performed at MOND by Professor Roeland De Moor. In contrast to the plasma light, the laster can penetrate deeper into the tooth to get a better result. This can also be used when only a single tooth or multiple teeth need to be bleached so that their colour matches the other teeth. We recommend that you make an appointment with Professor De Moor for this type of resistant discolouration caused by trauma or antibiotics.
Non-vital walking bleach
This type of treatment is typically used for the single dark discolouration of an incisor due to trauma or a previous root canal treatment. Due to damage to the nerve and the blood flow to the tooth, it can suddenly turn grey or dark yellow. When the filling material used in a previous root canal treatment was placed incorrectly, this can also cause discolouration of the crown. During this treatment, the dentist makes a small opening on the inside of the tooth and inserts the bleaching agent in the tooth, where it remains locked for several days. The tooth is thus lightened from the inside. Depending on the type of discolouration, the treatment sometimes has to be repeated several times. Furthermore, it is sometimes challenging to match the colour match with the adjacent teeth, so the result may turn out a little too light or too dark. This can be corrected afterwards using at-home bleaching.
Is bleaching painful?
When a bleaching is performed correctly, it should not be painful, but there could be some degree of sensitivity or irritation due to the following reasons:
- Too much bleaching agent has been used in the bleaching tray, which may cause it to seep into the gums and roots
- Exposed tooth roots that are not protected by tooth enamel or gums
- Cracks in the teeth, allowing the bleaching agent to penetrate deeper into the nerves
- Cavities due to dental caries or bad fillings that were not noticed during the check-up
Is bleaching bad for your teeth?
The answer is easy: NO. Whitening is a safe and effective method to obtain a better and lighter tooth colour in a non-invasive manner. However, you have to consider the following:
- Hydrogen peroxide is mildly acidic and temporarily makes the enamel slightly more porous (at a microscopic level) to oxidise the pigments. After bleaching, DO NOT BRUSH with a brush to give the enamel a chance to remineralise with the help of your saliva. Always brush your teeth BEFORE bleaching. Fluoride in toothpaste aids this remineralisation process.
- Excessive bleaching will cause damage. Bleaching has limits, and that is why it should not be used for more than four weeks. We recommend an average of two weeks. When bleaching for too long, the enamel cannot recover sufficiently, and it could have a glassy, more porous appearance, or local white spots might develop. If you wish to continue bleaching after two weeks, we advise you to come for a check-up with your dentist to assess your risk.
- Gum irritation might occur due to poorly fitting bleaching trays or when overfilling with the bleaching agent. If this persists, you should contact your dentist to check the bleaching trays and dosage.