Who doesn’t love a bright, white smile? It’s no surprise that teeth whitening is among the most popular cosmetic dental treatments, and that’s also the case here at the Yuba City Dental Group. Whiter teeth increase attractiveness and can even make you appear younger. The procedure is also one of the more conservative and cost-effective dental treatments around.
The treatment is not without its challenges, however. Producing the right shade of lightness can be difficult, especially when a tooth has experienced some type of trauma, or injury.
What Is Dental Trauma?
Dental trauma refers to damage or injury that occurs to the mouth. It may be caused by contact sports, a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or a variety of other mishaps. Studies state that somewhere around a quarter of Americans aged six to fifty years of age have experienced dental trauma, the majority of incidents occurring by the age of nineteen. Traumatized teeth often react differently than normal teeth to whitening procedures. Still, there are various treatments available that have proven effective.
Diagnosing a Traumatized Tooth
When lightening a traumatized tooth, the first step is to identify what is causing the dark, stained appearance. Is the tooth’s pulp still “vital,” or alive? This is determined by means of x-rays and other tests. If the tooth is still alive, external bleaching may be enough to achieve the desired color. Office procedures typically take less time and produce a higher quality outcome than over-the-counter whitening products.
Most often, however, discoloration in a traumatized tooth is an indicator that the tooth’s nerves have died. In this case, a root canal procedure will need to be performed to remove dead tissue and prevent infection, before beginning whitening treatment. At times, a tooth will begin to discolor many months (or years) after a root canal procedure. In both cases, whitening may still be possible using a technique known as internal bleaching.
Whitening From Within
Since a non-vital tooth’s stains are internal, we need to apply the bleaching agent inside the tooth. Internal bleaching is a routine dental procedure, and proceeds as follows: First, your dentist will make a small hole in the back of the tooth in order to access the pulp chamber (the area in the center of the tooth containing the nerves and soft tissue). The dentist will remove any debris and rinse the chamber, then add a special cement to prevent the bleaching agent from leaking. Next, bleaching material is placed in the pulp chamber, and temporarily sealed. That is the end of the initial procedure, which is why some call this the “walking bleach” technique. After a few days, you’ll return for the second round of bleaching. Depending on the degree of whiteness desired, it may take up to four visits to complete the bleaching process.
Once the desired color change is achieved, your dentist places a permanent restoration on the tooth to seal the hole. Generally, this provides your tooth with all the lightening it needs; however, the tooth can also be bleached externally. If results are still not satisfactory, you may consider a veneer or crown. One of our Yuba City dentists will discuss all of your options in full detail, and help you to make a decision that is right for you.