Meaning of Whitening

A radiant smile with white teeth is one of the most important characteristics of a personable charisma and beauty. If the teeth darken over time or are naturally not as white as desired, whitening can lighten the tooth color by a few shades.

  • Bleaching is the process of whitening discolored, dead or naturally yellow teeth with bleaching agents (English “to bleach”).
  • Intact teeth are whitened by the dentist on the outside of the enamel using in-office whitening or power whitening.
  • In the case of dead teeth, the bleaching solution is filled into the tooth from the inside as walking bleaching.
  • Home bleaching products from the drugstore usually only work with the less effective reduction bleaching method.

What is whitening?

Bleaching or tooth whitening is the name given to the whitening of teeth with bleaching agents (English “to bleach” = to bleach). Bleaching is used to restore discolored teeth to their natural color or to make naturally yellow teeth whiter.

  • External whitening: In healthy teeth, tooth whitening is carried out on the tooth enamel.
  • Internal bleaching: If you want to whiten dead teeth in which blood or protein degradation products have been deposited, you can have the dentist whiten the dentist from the inside.

What methods are there for bleaching?

Two chemical processes are used in teeth whitening: reduction bleach and oxidation bleach .

In reduction bleaching, tooth discoloration is lightened by removing oxygen from the tooth surface through the reaction with sulfur compounds. Most self-use products from the drugstore work according to this principle. This chemical whitening only has a temporary effect, as the tooth enamel is colored again through natural contact with oxygen.

Oxidative bleaching: bleach teeth with hydrogen peroxide

For processes with oxidation bleaching, hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide are used. The released oxygen permanently breaks down stored dyes through oxidation. After a few years, however, the lightened tooth enamel often begins to turn dark again due to new deposits.

How does tooth discoloration come about?

Luxury foods and foods or medication can become discolored in the enamel and stain the teeth. For example, coffee, tea or red wine as well as some types of berries, cigarettes or the oral antiseptic chlorhexidine can make your teeth darker over time.

Even with root canal treatments or other bleeding dental treatments, there is a risk that the dentin will soak up the blood and the tooth will turn darker in color.

Get white teeth: only with healthy gums and without tooth decay

Whether at the dentist or at home, for the whitening procedure your teeth must be free of caries and the gums must be healthy and uninjured. Professional teeth cleaning is necessary before teeth whitening , because the bleaching gel can work better without tartar and plaque.

Bleaching: at home or at the dentist?

With over-the-counter products from the drugstore, you can bleach your teeth in your own four walls using home bleaching or have your teeth whitened professionally as in-office bleaching or power bleaching at the dentist.

The whitening products from the drugstore are less effective, but are significantly cheaper. Whitening is simply faster at the dentist, the professional products bring better results. The treatment is much more expensive, however, with costs of up to 100 euros per tooth.

Home whitening: DIY teeth whitening

The whitening gel from the drugstore mostly only works with reduction bleach or contains significantly less hydrogen peroxide than the whitening products at the dentist. It is required by law so that consumers do not accidentally burn themselves during use. Nevertheless, read the instructions for use carefully before bleaching your teeth at home, do not extend the prescribed exposure time and make sure that you keep your lips and gums free of the active ingredient and do not accidentally swallow the whitening gel.

You usually have to use home whitening products for two to four weeks to achieve a whitening effect – which, however, is much weaker than at the dentist.

At the dentist, you can have a whitening tray made individually for you for home whitening, in order to improve your protection and the effectiveness of the home whitening products. Some dentists also offer professional products for home use.

Whiten teeth at the dentist

The dentist uses three different methods for teeth whitening: in-office whitening or the intensified method of power whitening for intact teeth, and walking whitening for dead teeth.

In-office whitening: dentist treatment for yellow teeth

With in-office whitening, the dentist usually applies carbamide peroxide gel to your teeth. Carbamide peroxide is made up of the neutral carrier gel carbamide and hydrogen peroxide as the actual active ingredient. The proportion of active ingredients in the whitening gel at the dentist is around three times as high as in home whitening products. As a result, the teeth are whitened much more thoroughly and faster. The desired whitening for yellow teeth can usually be achieved with two to three treatments and lasts for about two to three years.

During the chemical whitening process, the gums are protected by a custom-made whitening tray.

Power whitening

Power whitening works like in-office whitening, only the teeth to be whitened are additionally irradiated with laser or UV light to activate the whitening gel. The teeth whitening is faster and more intense.

If the desired lightening has not yet been achieved, the bleaching can be repeated. Even with power bleaching, the whitening lasts for about two to three years.

Walking bleach technique for dead teeth

Internal bleaching or walking bleaching can significantly lighten dead, darkly discolored teeth – for example after a root canal treatment. This procedure is particularly interesting for dead front teeth. With internal teeth whitening, some of the existing root filling material is removed and hydrogen peroxide is poured into the tooth. The tooth is then temporarily closed. After five to seven days, the dentist will check the brightness achieved. If the tooth should become even lighter, the dentist repeats the treatment. After about three repetitions, the desired whitening has mostly occurred and the tooth is finally sealed with a crown or filling .

No coloring drinks or food after teeth whitening

Caution: After any type of whitening, you should avoid drinks or food such as coffee, red wine or tea, red juices or berries for at least 24 hours.

How long does the result of a bleaching last?

With all bleaching methods, how long the new, lighter color lasts also depends on the behavior of the person being treated. In heavy smokers or tea drinkers, discoloration usually returns more quickly.

In most cases, the lightening with power or in-office bleaching lasts for about two to three years. With internal whitening, the teeth often stay bright for many years. Because of the weaker whitening, the darker tooth color is often achieved earlier with home whitening.

In order not to stress the tooth enamel too much, professional whitening is only recommended every two to three years.

Risks and side effects of teeth whitening

Certain risks and side effects of bleaching cannot be completely ruled out, even with proper use and treatment:

  • Sensitive reaction to cold, sweet or sour food for several days. Possible remedy with fluoride gel and toothpastes for hypersensitive teeth.
  • The gums can be swollen and sore from the chemicals used if bleaching gel gets on the gums due to a mistake in application.
  • The throat and stomach may be irritated after swallowing some whitening gel.
  • I don’t like the new tooth color.
  • Differences in color between bleached teeth and dentures are visible.