Since teeth whitening has now become the number one aesthetic concern of many patients, there are many products and methods available to achieve a brighter smile.
Professional teeth whitening (or bleaching) is a simple, non-invasive dental treatment used to change the color of natural tooth enamel, and is an ideal way to enhance the beauty of your smile. Over-the-counter products are also available, but they can be less effective than professional treatments and may not be approved by the American Dental Association (ADA).
As we age, the outer layer of tooth enamel wears away, eventually revealing a darker or yellow shade. The color of our teeth also comes from the inside of the tooth, which may become darker over time. Smoking, drinking coffee, tea, and wine may also contribute to tooth discoloration, making our teeth yellow and dull. Sometimes, teeth can become discolored from taking certain medications as a child, such as tetracycline. Excessive fluoridation (fluorosis) during tooth development can also cause teeth to become discolored.
It’s important to have your teeth evaluated to determine if you’re a good candidate for bleaching. Occasionally, tetracycline and fluorosis stains are difficult to bleach and we may offer other options, such as veneers or crowns to cover up such stains. Since teeth whitening only works on natural tooth enamel, it is also important to evaluate replacement of any old fillings, crowns, etc. before bleaching begins. Once the bleaching is done, your dentist can match the new restorations to the shade of the newly whitened teeth.
Since teeth whitening is not permanent, a touch-up may be needed every several months to years to keep your smile looking bright. Frequency of touch-up is influenced by your diet, and certain habits such as smoking.
The most widely used professional teeth whitening systems:
Home teeth whitening systems: At-home products come in a gel form that is placed in a custom-fitted tray, created from a mold of your teeth. The trays are worn for 2 to 4 hours per day for 5 to 7 days, or until the desired effect is achieved. It can take several weeks to achieve the desired results depending on the degree of staining and the desired level of whitening.
Some patients may experience tooth sensitivity in the process of having their teeth whitened. We recommend discontinuing the whitening until the sensitivity resolves, then resuming for a shorter time span and/or on non-consecutive days. A fluoride rinse such as ACT or Fluoriguard used after removing your whitening trays can also be effective at reducing or eliminating the sensitivity. Whatever steps you take to resolve the sensitivity, rest assured that it is only temporary, rarely lasting for more than a few days.
In office teeth whitening: At this time, we do not offer nor do we recommend in-office teeth whitening. Extensive research has shown that it is no more effective than home teeth whitening, it often causes sensitivity of the teeth and/or gums, and is usually far more expensive. Most in-office whitening systems also include or require you to have an at home whitening system to enhance or supplement the in-office treatments. Because of these factors, we see no reason to pass on the extra cost to you for no greater benefit.
Teeth whitening can be very effective and can give you a brighter, whiter, more confident smile!
Directions for Bleaching Teeth
- Brush and floss before using trays.
- Do not eat or drink while wearing the trays, as this may dilute the bleaching material.
- When dispensing gel for each use, dispense approximately half a tube. Do not use too much, as any excess with be pushed onto your gums and be wasted.
- Wipe any excess from gums with tissue or a soft toothbrush.
- Wear trays 2-4 hrs. each day, repeating for 5 to 7 consecutive days.
- After removing trays, wipe off bleaching gel with tissue and then brush teeth.
- Brush and rinse trays with warm soapy water and keep them in the retainer box.
- Teeth are usually lightened by 2 shades, according to a professional shade guide.
- If unsure of the results, ask to compare your current tooth shade to your pre-treatment shade at your next office visit, or give us a call to schedule an evaluation appointment.
- Depending on your teeth and their degree of staining or darkening, they may require more or less than 5-7 days of treatment. We recommend bleaching until you achieve the desired effect.
- With additional hours, bleaching time may be lessened.
- Teeth may become sensitive if the bleaching trays are worn overnight. If you have sensitive teeth, do not wear your bleaching trays overnight.
- If you grind your teeth at night, do not wear your bleaching trays at night or they will be quickly destroyed.
Touch-up use: Insert trays as per initial instructions, but use 3-4 days consecutively or until you achieve the desired effect. Do this approximately every 4-6 months, or as needed.
If you have any questions or want to check your shade, please call us at 410-667-0400.