Tooth 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.
Because having whiter teeth has now become the number one aesthetic concern of most patients, there are a number of ways to whiten teeth. The most popular method is using a home tooth whitening system (custom made trays with bleaching gel) that will whiten teeth dramatically. This method usually produces better results than over-the-counter (or professional strength) whitestrips since the gel has a higher bleach concentration. In addition, the patient keeps the trays and can buy gel for touch-ups in the future. Another method is 1-hour in-office chairside bleaching with the highest bleach concentration and fastest results. Very often, chairside bleaching is a great way to achieve good results very fast but requires custom bleaching trays to follow up and result in the optimum desired bleaching shade.
Since tooth whitening only works on natural tooth enamel, it is important to evaluate replacement of any old fillings, crowns, etc. Replacement of any restorations will be done after bleaching so they will match the newly bleached teeth.
Tooth whitening is not permanent. A touch-up maybe needed every several years, and more often if you smoke, drink coffee, tea, or wine. Also, the results of bleaching may vary among patients based on many factors to include a starting shade of your teeth. Bleaching may not be recommended if you have very sensitive teeth to start. Your dentist will discuss these factors with you and let you know if you are a good candidate for bleaching.
Reasons for tooth whitening:
Fluorosis (excessive fluoridation during tooth development).
Normal wear of outer tooth layer.
Stained teeth due to medications (tetracycline, etc.).
Yellow, brown stained teeth.
What does tooth whitening involve?
Custom bleaching trays usually requires two visits. At the first appointment, impressions (molds) will be made of your teeth to fabricate custom, clear plastic, trays.
At your second appointment (usually later in the day or the following day), you will try on the trays for proper fit, and adjustments will be made if necessary. The trays are worn with special whitening gel once a day for 30 minutes for a couple of weeks depending on the degree of staining and desired level of whitening. It is normal to experience tooth sensitivity during the time you are whitening your teeth but it will subside shortly after you have stopped bleaching.
Chairside bleaching requires one an hour and a half appointment during which the gel is applied to your teeth and a light is used to intensify the bleaching process.
You will receive care instructions for your teeth and trays, and be encouraged to visit your dentist regularly to help maintain a beautiful, healthy, white smile.