There are a number of techniques available today that make it possible for everyone to have the gleaming smile they've always wanted.
Tooth whiteners may be applied in one of three ways: The most popular method, and the one that has been around the longest, is the use of whitening trays custom made by the dentist to fit the teeth exactly. The patient takes the trays home and after applying a whitening gel, wears them while sleeping for 3 days to 2 weeks, until teeth have reached desired whiteness (there is a limit to how white teeth will get). The whitening gel uses a peroxide derivative and comes in flavors such as mint, melon, or bubble gum.
An alternative to take home systems is to undergo teeth whitening in the dentist's office with a system like "Britesmile." This method takes only one hour. Whitening strips available over the counter are used in the same way but are not custom fit, so the active ingredient can leak out, irritate gums, and cause sensitivity. Some over the counter kits have mouth pieces that fit over the teeth like a sports mouth guard. With this method, the whitening agent tends not to reach between the teeth, resulting in a striped effect where teeth have white centers and dark edges.
Once teeth are whitened, the effect typically lasts 2-6 years. The process does not damage the teeth, and there is no limit to the number of times teeth can be whitened. The gel is not toxic; in fact, when it touches saliva, it turns to water. While mild sensitivity may occur during whitening, it usually disappears within three days. Whitening can pose a problem where there are preexisting crowns, because the process only whitens natural teeth, not man made material.
A word of advice about toothpaste the regular types are best. "Whitening" toothpastes do not whiten teeth, and they can cause sensitivity, as do tartar control pastes and those with peroxide. They all have chemicals in them that irritate the teeth.
Bonding is a process whereby a substance sticks to teeth. There are at least twenty different shades of bonding that can be used as filling material that matches the tooth. The bonding material starts out as a soft putty substance that is hand sculpted to look like a tooth. It can be as small as a dot or large enough to cover an entire tooth. Bonding is where the dentist's artistic talents come into play.
In the 70s, bonding materials were softer and more porous than those used today, so they generally did not last as long as silver fillings and were prone to discoloration. Today, the bonding materials are much stronger and won't change color for years. In fact, bonding can reinforce a tooth and make it stronger.
The strength of bonding ensures that porcelain veneers remain firmly attached to teeth. In the 40s and 50s, people used to have crowns put on all of their teeth, which meant drilling all around each tooth. Now, a porcelain facing made by the lab can be put on the front of the tooth, and it stays there because it adheres so well to the bonding.
The next step up from porce lain facings is crowns. Traditional full crowns are really only needed when there is extensive decay. Otherwise, with modern dentistry, there isn't a need to cut down as much tooth any more. With cosmetic dentistry, mut improvement is possible. In only two appointments, an entire cosmetic smile "lift" might just transform your mouth into that Julia Robert smile you've always wanted!