By Dr. Josie Marciello

One of the most common things that patients enquire about when they first come into our office is tooth whitening. Many people are concerned with the discolouration of their teeth and ultimately wish for a brighter smile.

While tooth enamel is one of the hardest structures in our body, it also has the characteristic of being microscopically porous. It is only natural that with time the effects of smoking, food and drink will lead to enamel discoloration. Furthermore, with age, the dental pulp or “living core” of the tooth continues to lay down dentin beneath the enamel. This dentin is yellowish in color and thus lends a more yellowish shade to teeth which unfortunately cannot be brushed away.

There are essentially two ways to whiten teeth. The first involves abrasive pastes which assist in the removal of surface stain. However, this method can lead to excessive wear of tooth enamel. The safer option is a bleaching technique which uses a peroxide based gel. This solution works by oxidizing the organic pigment molecules within the enamel and dentin matrix, breaking them down to much smaller and finer pigment molecules and imparting a lighter shade to teeth. This whitening technique uses custom made mouth trays that carry the bleach in gel form and keep it in contact with teeth for a specific length of time. These are self applied at home and are very effective. Alternatively, for those who are uncomfortable wearing the trays, more powerful bleaching systems are done directly in the dental office under controlled conditions,.

The first step in whitening is a thorough examination to ensure that there are no problems that might be affected by the whitening process. For best results a dental cleaning provides the optimum surface conditions for the most effective whitening. It is important to note that any white fillings or crowns on your front teeth will not lighten with bleaching and may require replacement after the whitening process.

The most common side effect with dental whitening is mild tooth sensitivity, an effect which is temporary in nature. No long term irreversible tissue effects have been shown in clinical studies when proper doses of a known formulation are utilized under close professional supervision.

Dental whitening is an excellent and easy option for anyone with healthy teeth who is looking for a brighter and more attractive smile. At Harbourfront Dental Office we are happy to provide these services. Many people take better care of their teeth after they have whitened them and they feel more confident greeting the world with a gleam in their smile.

Dr. Josie Marciello, Associate Dentist, Harbourfront Dental Office, 10 Lower Spadina Ave. Telephone: 416-260-2001.