Teeth discolored as people age. The discoloration may be limited to a loss of brilliance or may appear as yellowing or brown discoloration. Tobacco and coffee stain teeth over time. Discoloration from medications or bacterial attacks is less common but also quite noticeable when it occurs. Outer discoloration of the tooth is most common, but internal discoloration is also possible.
Tooth whitening restores teeth to a brilliant white. A chemical bleaching process is the usual procedure, but mild mechanical abrasion is occasionally used. The application of porcelain veneers or composite bonding material also creates whiter teeth. Veneers and composites adhere perfectly to the surface of the tooth and hide stains completely.
At-home dental bleaching products are common in pharmacies or general stores. Tooth whitening in a dental office under the care of a dentist or licensed technician is much more effective and far less dangerous. At-home products sometimes damage the tooth surface, and if instructions are not followed precisely they can result in irreparable harm.
Dentists also have access to technology that is not available through other venues. For example, Dentists can apply light-accelerated bleaching to teeth. Dentists do not actually use lasers; halogen light or arcs provide the necessary energy. Alternative names for the procedure are power bleaching or laser bleaching. In light-accelerated bleaching, the Dentist applies peroxide to the tooth as in the regular bleaching process. High-energy light then excites the peroxide and causes rapid oxidation. Light in the blue wavelength spectrum is the most effective exciting energy, and many brochures or articles refer to the application of blue light in the whitening process.
There are risks associated with tooth whitening. The chemicals can cause burns to the gums, increased sensitivity to hot and cold, and hyperodonto-oxidation. Treatment should be provided by licensed professionals in a dental office.