Sunday, July 10th, 2011
With constant brushing and aging, the enamel of our teeth develops mini cracks or scratches. These cracks in the enamel, the protective layer of our teeth, gather dirt and debris over time and become stained, causing discoloration and loss of luster. The stains, usually of a yellow or brown hue, can come from smoking or drinking tea, coffee, or cola, all factors that also cause bad breath. Due to this, a large number of people turn to teeth whitening in hopes of getting those pearly whites back.

Another reason why some resort to teeth whitening or bleaching is the daily, unwillful, and frustrating act of night-grinding or teeth-clenching, a stress disorder formally known as bruxism. If one clenches their teeth regularly, they will begin to see chips form in their teeth and dentures. This grinding quickens the pace of tooth deterioration, causing tooth enamel to become worn and exposing the deeper layers of one's tooth. Dentures often break as a result of persistent teeth clenching. The disorder also deprives those it affects of eating certain foods as their teeth can no longer handle them. Bruxism has the potential to become very dangerous, leading to chronic facial, jaw, and mouth pain as well as severe headaches. If one's symptoms match that of bruxism, they are highly recommended to schedule a visit with their dentist as soon as possible.

The Difference Between Teeth Whitening and Teeth Bleaching

Teeth whitening is the act of bringing back the tooth’s original color, which is usually done through the elimination of dirt and debris accumulated over a span of years or by actually changing the color of the teeth. Teeth bleaching is the effort to turn back the clock while whitening one's teeth simultaneously by using oxidizing agents. For example, carbamide peroxide reacts with one's saliva to become hydrogen peroxide, the main ingredient of some teeth whitening products. Saliva is the key to a whiter smile. The more saliva build-up, the cleaner, and therefore, more whiter the smile. However, some teeth whiteners do not change the actual color of the teeth; they simply lift the dirt and grime from the enamel’s surface so the saliva can fill in the cracks. Those suffering from bruxism, or teeth clenching in general, should consider using teeth whitening products as the grinding wears away at tooth enamel, leaving teeth vulnerable to unwanted stains and discoloration.

Teeth Whitening Products

Most teeth whitening products that do not use the principle of teeth bleaching take the debris off the minute cracks of the enamel to reveal the true luster of the teeth. Many toothpaste products have tooth whitening elements like silica or calcium carbonate that help in eradicating intrinsic stains, grinding the food away from the cracks. Unfortunately, it takes awhile before these teeth whiteners have a visible effect. In addition, when one brushes the stain away from the cracks, they may be re-filled with debris from food or coffee upon eating or drinking again.

Teeth Bleaching Products

Bleaching products are more popular alternatives as they offer quicker results compared to teeth whitening products. Teeth bleaching can be done either at home or by visiting a dentist. For deep intrinsic stains that at-home treatments can't reach, bleaching should be performed by a dentist who will use a teeth whitener that is made up of 15% to 35% hydrogen peroxide. Together with the application of this tooth whitening agent, an accelerator is used, which looks like a laser or a light. The papilla and the gums are protected by the dentist with the application of a protective layer, such as a gel or a rubber dam. The dentist's procedures are bound to be a bit pricey but, since they are done professionally, they should offer a very obvious change of color.

Teeth bleaching can be done at home either by buying whitening kits from a dentist’s office or purchasing them over the counter. Tooth whitening products help achieve the best long-term results as one is able to use the product on a more frequent basis. Moreover, it is much cheaper than a dentist visit. Some examples of these teeth whiteners are the 35% Carbamide Peroxide Gel System and the 22% Carbamide Peroxide Gel System.

Night Grinding Products

For those suffering from night grinding, the product suggested most by dentists are night guards. These acrylic guards slip comfortably over either the top or bottom row of one's teeth and are worn during sleep. The nightly grinding and clenching continues but the guard protects the two rows of teeth from touching each other, thereby preventing any further damage to the teeth or discomfort. Over-the-counter night guards are available at pharmacies but one can also have a custom guard made by their dentist, an expensive but certainly more effective option.

Minor Risks

Because teeth whitening products use a relatively powerful agent, some side effects have been reported. One common side effect is the suffering of sensitive teeth days after teeth whitening. However, this pain can easily be relieved by brushing with desensitizing toothpaste or using any toothpaste that contains potassium nitrate. Today, most teeth whitening products have a desensitizing effect to help prevent this sensitivity after bleaching. As for the risks of wearing night guards, as of yet, there appear to be no negative side effects to the teeth. However, it has been reported that night guards can conflict with other sleep ailments. If one has a sleep disorder other than bruxism, they are advised to speak with both their dentist and doctor before trying a night guard.


Teeth whitening, night grinding, night guards, bad breath



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