Good Equipment Vital for Whitening
Thursday November 5, 1998

Dear Dr. Mady: An infomercial on television promised great results from a tooth-whitening process. Do you think these do-it-yourself home kits are safe to use, and will they help make my teeth whiter?--Susan from LaSalle

Dear Susan:

Infomercials can be very convincing by painting an extremely promising picture, but certain facts and principals do exist. You should be aware of them and base your choice accordingly.

Not everyone needs their teeth whitened or bleached. Consult your friends and dentist for their opinion. Also ask yourself: is having whiter teeth something you think about every time you look in the mirror? If this is the case you may want to consider whitening.

No matter who you are, it is natural for your teeth to yellow or discolour with age. Contributing factors also include smoking, coffee, tea and red wine, to name a few. Decreasing these factors will slow down the discolouration process and also help keep your teeth their whitest, should you choose to have whitening.

If you have several white fillings (or tooth-coloured cosmetic bonding) or any type of porcelain restorations, the whitening process will not lighten these. You may end up with a dissatisfying result that requires restoration replacements. This can become very costly and time-consuming, so take this into consideration before initiating the process. Always wait at least two to three weeks following whitening before changing any restorations to match your new tooth shade, just to allow the colour to stabilize.

The most important aspect of the home teeth-whitening process is the design and construction of trays to hold the solution. A well-designed tray has special reservoirs so that the whitening gel has a place to rest against the teeth without being flushed out. These trays only cover the teeth and do not allow the gel to contact the gums.

Over-the-counter and infomercial type systems offer a one-size-fits-all tray which enables the gel to sit on the gums and this may cause a harmful reaction. If you desire safe and effective whitening you must have custom trays properly designed by your dentist.

Like many procedures, side effects of whitening range from sensitive teeth during treatment to temporary tongue, lip and throat soreness. These usually resolve themselves two to three days post-treatment. Ask your dentist about a system that has a pH between 6.5 and 7.0.
This column is reprinted with the permission of the author and The Windsor Star. "Ask the Dentist" is written by Windsor dentist (and ECDS member), Dr. David Mady Jr.. The column appears the first Thursday of each month in the Windsor Star. Readers with questions can write to "Ask The Dentist", c/o The Windsor Star, 167 Ferry St., Windsor Ontario, N9A 4M5



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