So many people want whiter teeth! Partly this is because everyone we see in the media and on TV either has super white teeth, or they have been photoshopped. To be fair to TV people, studio lights make teeth that aren't white look quite bad, so it’s no wonder they like them gleaming.
However, it’s also because we associate whiter teeth with healthier teeth. The things that cause teeth to be stained are cavities, wear, trauma, fillings, and ageing to name a few.
So if you want whiter teeth, should you go with veneers or bleaching/whitening?
There are two things to consider with stains;
- Location of stain.
- Type of stain.
Surface stains are the easiest to bleach off. This includes food and beverage stains.
As we age, our teeth darken from changes to the inner layer of the tooth called the dentine. This can be also bleached, or made to appear whiter by making the outer layer of enamel look very white. However, if our gums have shrunk leaving some of the root exposed, this is very difficult to bleach as generally we will get sensitive root surfaces.
Stains that are deep inside the tooth, such as when our tooth has been hit in an accident, or after root canal therapy, can be very difficult to bleach and often relapse, going dark again.
Stains that come from edible things are possible to bleach. Stains that come from metals, such as amalgam fillings, are not possible to bleach.
So in general, if you teeth are healthy, without too many fillings, and you are happy with the appearance generally, and just want them a bit whiter, then bleaching is better.
If you have lots of stained fillings, grey stains from amalgams, grey teeth from root canal therapy, or receded gums, then placing veneers is probably better.
That other thing to consider is the shape, wear, rotation and other appearance related parts of the tooth. If for instance, a tooth is very worn, or slightly crooked, then whitening will not correct these other factors and restoring the teeth’s original shape with veneers might be better.
Patients with severely rotated or crooked teeth are very unsuitable for veneers. The amount of tooth you need to cut away to make a severely crooked tooth straight is terribly bad for the tooth and it’s far better to do some form of orthodontics first.
Budget wise, bleaching is far cheaper than veneers.
A final thing to consider is how much upkeep you want. Bleaching requires constant touch-ups which you can do at home. The colour of veneers is very stable, but in patients with very heavy grinding habits, chipping of the veneers can occur.
So in closing
Do bleaching if:
- You are generally happy with the shape, position and overall appearance of the teeth.
- You don’t mind touching up occasionally.
- Aren’t wanting a particular shade to be achieved.
- Don’t’ want much done to your teeth.
Do veneers if:
- You want to correct wear, chipping, shortening, shape or minor crookedness of the teeth.
- You have multiple stained fillings, old amalgam stains, root canals, or other things that won’t stain.
- You don’t want to be constantly touching up the colour.