What Causes Discoloration?
While people have different colors of skin and hair, they also have genetic differences in tooth color. Some teeth are more yellow, while others yellow with aging. Natural tooth color can be discolored by a number of causes. The surface of the teeth can be stained by tobacco, coffee, tea, berries and other foods as well as by deposits of calculus (which is better known as tartar).
Discoloration of the tooth internally can also result from aging, injuries, excessive fluoride, certain illnesses and taking antibiotic tetracycline during early childhood. Although bleaching successfully lightens most discolorations, certain types (like those caused by tetracycline) are more difficult to remove.
Single Tooth Bleaching
The following patient complained that her front tooth had turned dark. This sometimes happens when the pulp of a tooth is injured and dies. Typically, the tooth requires root canal therapy. The answer to this patient’s problem was “internal bleaching.” After a few visits the tooth lightened up very nicely. The “after” picture taken immediately after treatment shows the tooth a little lighter than the others. Normally it will “tone down a notch” and blend nicely.
Chairside and Home Bleaching
There are two types of bleaching procedures. Bleaching may be done completely in the dental office (known as “chairside bleaching”) or a system may be dispensed by the dentist to use at home (called “in-home bleaching”).
Chairside bleaching takes from 30 minutes to one hour per visit. It is not uncommon for the teeth to become slightly sensitive following bleaching treatments. To protect the mouth, a gel-like substance is applied to the gums and a rubber “shield” is placed around the necks of the teeth. A chemical solution, the oxidizing agent, is painted onto the teeth. A special light may be used to activate the agent.