Internal Bleaching: What is it, and Who Needs it?

It’s pretty safe to say that everyone wants white teeth.  The teeth whitening industry is worth multiple billions of dollars.  But what if you have one tooth that is darker than all the others?  What if you’ve tried teeth whitening, and that one tooth doesn’t change colors?

Then you may need internal bleaching.

What is Internal Bleaching?

Internal bleaching is pretty self explanatory: it is bleaching a tooth from the inside.  All other teeth whitening techniques work on the external surface of the teeth.  They use peroxide chemicals to oxidize dark colored compounds beneath the enamel surface.  However, they can only penetrate to a certain depth.

When external bleaching does not work, especially when one single tooth is darker than all the others, it is probably a case for internal beaching.  Internal bleaching uses the same class of peroxide chemicals for whitening; they simply act from the internal aspect of the tooth.

What Causes Darkening of a Single Tooth?

In most cases, when a single tooth is much darker than those around it, the cause is some former trauma to the tooth.  Trauma can result in a dead tooth that leads to a darkened color in a tooth.

Technically, it is the soft tissues inside the tooth that is dead.  Our teeth are hollow and contain nerves and blood vessels.  As this tissue dies, the red blood cells die and darken.  Because the hard structure of teeth is slightly translucent, this darkened color shows through.

Most of the time, this leads to a dark grey or brown discoloration of the traumatized tooth.  In other cases, the tooth turns dark yellow in color.  A dark yellow color usually indicates that the inner core of the tooth (dentin) has thickened.  Dentin is darker than enamel, so as it thickens, its natural yellow color becomes more intense and shows through the translucent enamel more easily.

The trauma that causes tooth color change can occur at any point in life, and the change in color can occur at any point in life.  For example, a women in her mid-40’s may experience a sudden color change in a front tooth that was injured in middle school basketball.  The color change can occur decades after the trauma.

In other cases, the color change can occur almost immediately.

Does Internal Bleaching on a Tooth Require a Root Canal First?

Yes!  There are two reasons that internal bleaching on a tooth MUST be preceded by a root canal treatment.

  1. The chemicals used to whiten the tooth from the inside are toxic to the nerve and blood vessel tissue. The root canal cleans out all of the soft tissue from the internal chamber of the tooth.
  2. Because the darkened color is the result of a damaged or dead nerve inside the tooth, a root canal is necessary to remove that unhealthy soft tissue.

What Does Internal Bleaching Involve?

Usually internal bleaching takes several appointments.  After the root canal, which seals the internal surface of the root, your dentist can access the inside of the tooth in order to apply the whitening gel.  After placing the whitening gel inside the tooth (from the back side of the front teeth), the dentist seals it in place with a temporary filling.

The whitening gel stays inside the tooth for 2-3 sessions of 48 hours.  After each 48 hour session, the dentist removes the temporary filling, rinses out the existing whitening gel, and reapplies a fresh layer of whitening gel.

After achieving the desired color of the single tooth, your dentist removes the temporary filling and gel and permanently seals the tooth with a final tooth-colored filling.

Is Internal Bleaching Safe?

Yes!  The whitening gel is only toxic to soft tissues like the gums, cheeks, lips, and the nerve and blood vessels in the tooth. Your dentist takes every precaution to isolate the gel to only hard tooth structure.

Because the whitening gel only touches a tooth without a nerve, there is no post-op pain or sensitivity caused by this type of teeth whitening.

Are You Interested in Internal Bleaching?

Call Timberlake Dental at 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He will assess your cosmetic goals and determine if internal bleaching will achieve them.

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