Bleaching of vital teeth has been a great thing for cosmetic dentistry. Teeth can be lightened considerably with out having to do any invasive drilling or bonding of tooth-colored materials onto the teeth. The cost is significantly cheaper than all other cosmetic dental procedures. Discolorations in teeth can come from many sources. Intrinsic stains (ones that are actually incorporated into the tooth structure itself), include antibiotics (especially tetracycline), fluorosis, and enamel hyperplasia. Aging will also naturally yellow the teeth. Foods such as tea, coffee, red wine, and colas and tobacco products will also discolor teeth. Extrinsic stains, stains that reside on the surface of the teeth, are caused by bacterial plaque accumulations soaking up pigmented food and drink. Extrinsic stains can be removed by a professional cleaning or by using a “whitening” toothpaste that has extra abrasives in it. Since intrinsic stains reside within the tooth enamel, they must be removed by chemicals that have the ability to soak into the tooth structure itself.
A dental rubber dam is an extremely useful adjunct to dental treatment. It is an extremely thin sheet of latex rubber usually cut into six inch squares. A latex-free variety is also available for those who are allergic to latex. A rubber dam is used to isolate a patient’s mouth from the various instruments and chemicals that a dentist uses in the mouth. For teeth bleaching, the chemicals that are used are very caustic and would not bode well floating around in someone’s mouth. There are “paint on” dental dams available for bleaching which are more convenient to use for bleaching procedures. Rubber dams are are extremely important for endodontic (root canal) procedures. A sodium hypochlorite solution (the same chemical found in household bleach) is used to flush out the inside of root canals. It is certainly a good idea to keep that confined to the inside of a tooth. The rubber dam also keeps the thin, sharp files from going down the patient’s throat (or worse yet, their lungs). A rubber dam is also very helpful in children’s dentistry. Placing a rubber dam over a tooth on a fearful child can make them feel isolated from the dental treatment being done and can help calm them down.