The scope of cosmetic dentistry is broad. You can have your teeth straightened, capped or gap-filled to make you feel more confident in your smile, and you still won't have exhausted all your options. However, by far the most popular cosmetic dentistry procedure is teeth whitening. Getting a brighter, whiter smile is something many people of all ages are aspiring towards, and your dentist can certainly help you with that. So — how does it work?
There are two main ways of having your teeth whitened. Both use bleaching agents to lighten the colour of the surface of your teeth.
The first does it in stages. Your dentist will take an impression of your teeth. From this, they will make a mould that will fit your mouth exactly. You'll be given gel to apply to your teeth at home, and you'll wear that moulded guard over your teeth as you do so. Over a period of several weeks, your teeth will become noticeably whiter.
The second method is 'laser whitening'. This method is what many people imagine when they think of whitening. The bleaching agent is placed onto your teeth, and then a light is shone through a special filter onto your teeth. This activates the bleach, and it begins to take effect. You will need to sit under the lamp for approximately one hour, but the results will be immediately noticeable.
As the process uses bleach, it's absolutely vital that the process is only done under supervision — or, in the case of the gel to be used at home, exactly as described by your dentist. The concentrations used are perfectly safe, but it takes a professional to know this and understand how to administer it.
Because of this, you should only ever consider seeing a dental professional to whiten your teeth. You may see beauty salons advertising the service, but it is best to avoid them and instead trust a professional with adequate training in dental health as a whole.
For similar reasons, you should be dubious of commercial tooth whitening products. If they contain strong bleaching agents, they are unsafe to use by yourself; if they do not, then they won't produce noticeable results as the proper dental procedure would.
Your teeth will not be blinding white, as some may fear. Instead, they'll just be lightened several shades from the colour they started out. This is good because it gives you a result that's both bright and natural — not over-the-top. Your results will not be permanent, but they are quite persistent; they may last up to three years. However, be advised that anything that would have stained your teeth normally, such as drinking coffee or smoking, will, of course, discolour your teeth quicker and shorten the effect.
It's well worth making an enquiry with your dentist if this is a process you're interested in. They'll be able to tell you if you're a suitable candidate for the process and answer any additional questions that you may have.