Tooth Whitening

Tooth whitening is an effective cosmetic dental procedure to enhance the natural tooth colour and appearance. It tends to remove the stains and the original tooth shade is turned to a lighter colour, rather than completely white. In order to maintain the brighter colour, the tooth whitening procedure should be repeated from time to time.

Need For Tooth Whitening

The outer covering of a tooth is known as enamel. A combination of light reflection or scattering off the enamel, and dentin colour beneath it contributes to the natural tooth colour. Every day, on the enamel, a thin coating (pellicle) is formed, which later picks up stains. Pores of the tooth enamel are capable of holding stains back.

Factors which cause staining or yellowing of teeth are:

  • Tobacco use

  • Excessive intake of dark-coloured fluids such as tea, coffee and red wine

  • Weak enamel

Stains may also occur inside the tooth. These types of stains are usually referred to as intrinsic stains. Common reasons for intrinsic stains include over-exposure to fluoride, in-take of tetracycline antibiotics and trauma.

Tooth whitening procedure extensively targets surface (extrinsic) stains.


Tooth whitening majorly involves two procedures: Non-vital whitening and Vital whitening. Individuals who have undergone root-canal treatment and does not possess a live nerve, are recommended for non-vital treatment. Vital whitening is suitable for those people who have live nerves.

Non-Vital Whitening

An individual who had a root-canal treatment, has stains in the inside part of the tooth. Vital whitening fails to treat intrinsic stains. In such situations, different procedures are used by the dentist to whiten tooth from inside. Most often, a whitening agent will be placed inside the tooth. A temporary filling would be put over it. Afterwards, the tooth would be left unstained for several days. Although, this treatment is required only once, but can be repeated many times until the desired tooth shade is achieved.

Vital Whitening

A gel-like whitening solution is commonly used in vital tooth whitening. This solution is directly applied to the surface of the tooth. Some form of hydrogen peroxide is involved in making up this product.

Tooth whitening can be either performed in dentist’s office or at home. A more powerful whitening gel is used by the dentist for in-office whitening. For gel activation, a specialized light or laser is used. This stimulates a fast bleaching process. Generally, in-office whitening requires one to three appointments and takes a duration of 30 to 90 minutes. However, depending upon the method used, stain severity and desired whiteness, this fraction may vary. If the teeth are very badly discoloured, then a few days bleaching process at home is recommended by the dentist.

For in-home whitening, impressions of upper and lower teeth are taken by the dentist. In addition, custom mouthpieces which rightly fit the mouth are made. A close fit is essential to help the whitening agent remain attached to the teeth. In order to fill each of the mouthpiece, the dentist provides a special whitening agent at home. It is applied as a gel or as a strip, which sticks to the teeth. The individual needs to wear the mouthpiece for several days. Most often, within a week or two, the person achieves the desired result. Whitening agents are also available at the counter. However, they being less stronger than what dentist provides, may delay the whitening procedure.

Sometimes, whitening toothpaste is also used in this procedure. The toothpaste consists of abrasives, which tend to remove enamel stains. They are not involved in changing the overall colour of the teeth.


Whitening does not offer permanent results. After sometime, the stains may return back. The whiteness may get lost in about a small duration of 1 month if the individual starts smoking or consumes a large quantity of stain causing foods or liquids. If these staining items are avoided, then next whitening may not be needed for 6 to 12 months. Both home and dentist’s office are suitable to do re-whitening.


Tooth whitening procedure usually involves no major side-effects. In some individuals, the teeth may experience slight sensitivity or gum irritation for a short while. Women are advised not to undergo whitening during pregnancy. It may do cause some unknown harmful effects on the growing fetus. This cosmetic surgery can be done after delivery.

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