There are many causes of discolouration of one or a few teeth, including decay, old stained fillings and enamel defects. Some patients may have general or widespread discolouration of their teeth as a result of being given certain kinds of antibiotics, too much fluoride as a child, or simply as a result of the way the teeth have developed and aged.
It is possible to achieve a considerable lightening in many cases using simple tooth whitening techniques. In the past this kind of general discolouration might have been treated by crowning the teeth.
Treatments usually involve taking accurate impressions of the teeth and constructing a thin clear soft plastic splint, which precisely fits over them. At night the splints are filled with a slow release bleaching jelly, which over a period of time lightens the teeth. Occasionally mild sensitivity may arise so we like to oversee the treatment - follow up appointments are therefore required
In some cases a very rapid result can be achieved, and in others the process may be slower. However there is no great hurry and the process is harmless if properly supervised.
A more rapid result may be achieved using in-surgery techniques, where a stronger whitening agent is activated by a bright light under the careful control of the dental therapist or hygienist.
When the teeth have been bleached it may be necessary to replace fillings (if they are present) to a lighter shade. Where severe staining will not respond to bleaching, porcelain veneers may be a suitable alternative in some cases.