Teeth bleaching 101…

So you want to have a Hollywood white smile? Or do you? Our perception of what is beautiful is often coloured (excuse the pun) by what we see in the media. What makes a beautiful smile is not only about teeth. It’s the whole face. The eyes, cheeks and lips all frame a smile in which the teeth happen to be centrepiece. IMO, teeth should never standout in a smile but blend in with the other facial structures. Blinding white teeth just aren’t natural!

Nature never intended teeth to be a uniform single colour like stone. A natural tooth is in fact multi shaded and translucent. The different shades bleed gently into each other to create a unique looking piece of bone. Yes, teeth are in fact a very close cousin to bone but unlike bone it is translucent and has many shades of yellow/brown/grey.

Each tooth has a unique shape and therefore will be coloured differently according to size and shape. As we go away from the middle, central incisor, teeth become progressively darker with a richer shade of yellow. Each tooth displays a darker shade of yellow from the incisal part to the portion closest to the gumline. This complex layering of tooth structure gives teeth their appearance.

Every one has different shades of yellow teeth and some have a browner or greyer colour. Some antibiotics given to the very young, in years past, discoloured teeth to create bands of grey, known as tetracycline staining. These are the most difficult shades to bleach. This colouring of teeth is within the tooth and is not associated with superficial staining from the likes of coffee, tea or smoking.

Another factor which is often overlooked by most people about teeth colour is skin tone. When a person of darker skin tone smiles their teeth often appear lighter in colour but those who are fair often seem to think their teeth are dark. It has to do with contrast, try putting on some darker foundation on your skin and the teeth will appear ‘whiter’ and for the ladies (or blokes brave enough) some lipstick will also create a contrast to make the teeth appear whiter.

Teeth do darken as we age. This is a normal physiological process which takes place due to the thickening of the dentine in the teeth. Also as the enamel wears thin, the coloured dentine becomes more apparent.

Teeth bleaching in dentistry is a peroxide based chemical often in gel form. It comes in many concentrations. This is the most conservative treatment which we have to lighten the shade of natural teeth. Restorations placed in teeth will not lighten with the application of bleach.

Courtesy of Malaysian fashion trends.

In our next article we will discuss the pros and cons of using bleach to lighten teeth shades. Also we will explore the different types of products available, commercially and at the dental surgery, and which are effective and which are just marketing hype.

Roland Chong

Roland has over 20 years experience as a general dentist. Roland does all aspects of general dentistry with a special interest in prosthodontics (crown and bridge work) and cosmetic dentistry. A member of the International Team of Implantology, Roland is constantly developing his skills by collaborating with international experts.

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