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With the advent of new treatments, a better smile is now within reach of more people. One of the most popular cosmetic procedures is bleaching. The natural light ivory color of enamel can turn to yellow, orange, brown, gray—even blue or green. Causes of discoloration include staining from coffee or tobacco, injury that has damaged the pulp, ingestion of the antibiotic tetracycline or high levels of fluoride while the teeth are developing, corrosion from silver fillings, and the natural wearing away of the enamel with age.
Although many stains can be successfully removed with a bleaching technique, bleaching may be uncomfortable for people with sensitive teeth or an exposed root. Several different bleaching techniques are available.
Chair –side bleaching
Your dentist etches your teeth with an acid solution and then applies an oxidizing agent to the enamel. Your teeth are exposed to a bright light or a laser to hasten the lightening. It usually takes three to four sessions, each lasting about 30–60 minutes, to achieve the color you want. A newer technique, called power bleaching, uses a highly concentrated form of hydrogen peroxide as the lightening agent. It can deliver results in just one session. Bleaching is temporary, however. Your teeth will darken again within one to three years, and you may need to repeat the procedure.
Home Bleaching (dentist prescribed)
When the pulp is dead or injured, the tooth will darken. To correct this problem, your dentist can rinse the pulp chamber with a bleaching agent while performing root canal therapy. If the stain persists or the tooth darkens after the root canal is completed, your dentist can reopen the pulp chamber and fill it with bleach for several minutes under a heat light.
This process may have to be repeated several times. Alternately, the dentist can fill the pulp chamber with bleaching solution and cover it with a temporary filling. In this case, you'll need to return after a few days to have the bleach removed and the tooth permanently sealed.