In our most recent blog post we discussed teeth whitening kits. We concluded—based on our own experience here at Lifetime Family Dental in Gilbert and the experience of other cosmetic dentistry practices—that professional teeth whitening procedures produce the best results and are the safest to use. We briefly touched on the composition of the actual bleaching agent itself: tooth whitening gel. In today’s post, we want to explore that further.
What’s in tooth whitening gel?
The active whitening agent in the gel is usually hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is a very strong oxidizing chemical. In tooth whitening gel it is used as a bleaching agent to remove surface stains. It has other applications, however. Among the less corrosive applications are its use as a ripening agent for fruits and vegetables, and as a topical anti-infective. Hydrogen peroxide is toxic and should not be taken internally. It is also used in industry as an explosive and in medicine as a neurotransmitter inhibitor. When used in tooth whitening, the gel may contain anywhere from 3% – 20% of hydrogen peroxide.
How does it work?
Tooth whitening gel, when applied to a tooth’s surface, can usually remove mild stains on the enamel with a relatively weak (3%) solution. However, stains that are embedded in the microcracks of the tooth need a stronger solution (up to 20%) and a longer time in contact with the tooth. The hydrogen peroxide in the gel needs to penetrate the enamel to get to the discolored molecules of the stain. Because of the reactive nature of oxygen, the peroxide destroys the chemical bond that holds the discolored molecules together, and they are rinsed out of the mouth.
Are there side effects?
Some people experience a sensation of burning when using tooth whitening gel, and some experience an increased tooth sensitivity to hot and cold. The most serious side effect to the teeth is severe damage to the enamel from using a very strong solution or leaving the gel in contact with the teeth for too long.
After reading this article, it should be obvious that professional teeth whitening is the best way to go. If you’re planning to use a home kit, please call us first and always consult a dentist before using a tooth whitening gel. As part of our cosmetic dentistry offerings in Gilbert, Lifetime Family Dental uses only safe and effective gels in our tooth whitening services. We also offer a professional level whitening kit you can use at home that is both safer and more effective than kits you can buy over the counter. Tooth whitening is a popular trend and it can enhance your smile dramatically. That’s good, because we want to see your lovely smile for years to come!