Professional teeth whitening takes a holistic approach to the creation of a pearly-white smile. This is why a patient that goes to the dentist for teeth whitening gets a visual exam before getting the all-clear. It may seem like overkill, but there’s a good reason why a person should go to the dentist for teeth whitening.
That reason is underlying oral health issues. Teeth whitening is a cosmetic treatment that does not correct existing dental problems like cavities, breakage, or infection. In fact, the substances that whiten the teeth are not kind to teeth with underlying issues. So here is what a dentist would tell anyone who has a cavity and also wants to brighten their smile.
How professional teeth whitening works, in a nutshell
Professional teeth whitening has two main benefits. One: The patient gets a dental checkup in the bargain. Two: The person goes home with an even smile. In contrast, at-home teeth whitening may produce a set of teeth with varying shades of white. Here is what to expect from teeth whitening that happens at the dentist’s office.
- After the dentist clears their patient for the procedure, they may numb the patient’s mouth
- They will clean the patient’s teeth to remove any plaque buildup. If the teeth look good after this step, the dentist may stop there
- If not, the dentist will polish the teeth with polishing paste. The particles in the paste remove any holdover plaque
- Next, the dentist will use a shade guide to discuss the desired result with their patient
- They will then isolate the teeth with a dental dam (either physical or chemical) to protect soft tissue from the teeth whitening agent
- The dentist will apply the whitening agent to the target teeth. They may or may not activate it with a curing light
- After some time, the dentist removes the bleach, cleans the mouth and removes the dental dam
The dentist may apply the bleaching agent several times over the same session. They may also choose to spread out the treatments over several weeks. In both cases, the dentist will make sure to protect soft tissue in the mouth from the bleaching agent. This raises the matter of cavities and teeth whitening.
Bleaching agent and the anatomy of a cavity
One of the tell-tale symptoms of a cavity is tooth sensitivity. Some people experience pain as they bite down while others feel a sharp pain when they eat something sweet. Others may be sensitive to hot or cold foods. The cause of the sensitivity is an exposed inner tooth, which is a thing that happens when a cavity runs from the enamel and past the dentine.
So imagine how the inner tooth would react to teeth whitening gels, whose active ingredient is hydrogen peroxide. At best, a person would experience awful pain. At worst, they would sustain damage to the inner tooth.
It is worth noting that this is not an outcome that happens when a dentist performs or oversees teeth whitening treatments.
Teeth whitening only works for healthy teeth
The compounds that whiten the teeth should never come into contact with the inner tooth. So if you have a fracture, a cavity, gum disease, or tooth decay, see a dentist. Restoring your tooth or teeth will improve the look of your smile. Treatment will also ready your teeth for professional teeth whitening treatment.