Tooth whitening (or bleaching) is a simple, non-invasive dental treatment used to change the color of natural tooth enamel and is an ideal method to enhance the beauty of your smile. There are many products and techniques available for patients who want to achieve a whiter smile, and with so many options available, it can be difficult to choose the method that is right for you. The best way to begin any teeth whitening regimen is to schedule an appointment, and talk to your doctor about the differences between in-office professional whitening and at-home whitening.
Since tooth whitening only works on natural tooth enamel, it is important to evaluate replacement of any old fillings, crowns, bridges or veneers. Replacement of any restorations will be done AFTER bleaching so they will match the newly bleached teeth.
In Office Teeth Whitening
The first professional option is commonly referred to as “in-office” whitening. This procedure is performed in a dental office. The in office bleaching uses a 38% hydrogen peroxide solution carefully applied in several applications over a 1-hour visit. We typically notice a few lighter shades at the end of this visit. We do recommend using the at-home bleaching in addition to this to maintain the lighter shade.
At-Home Teeth Whitening
- Tray Bleaching
Tray bleaching is a type of professional whitening that uses custom-made trays and whitening gel only available through your dentist. This process requires two appointments to complete. At the first appointment, impressions will be taken of your teeth to fabricate custom, clear plastic trays. At the second appointment, you will try on the trays for proper fit and directions will be given for the home bleaching. The trays are worn with special whitening solution either once or twice a day for 30 minutes for two weeks, depending on the degree of existing staining and the desired level of whitening. It is normal to experience tooth sensitivity during the time you are whitening your teeth. This sensitivity will subside shortly after you have stopped bleaching.
- Teeth Whitening Strips
Teeth whitening strips are thin, flexible plastic (polyethylene) strips with a thin film of hydrogen peroxide bleaching on one side. Whitening strip kits come with two types of strips: strips for the upper teeth and strips for the lower teeth. The bleaching agent is applied by placing the strips across your teeth and gently pressing the strips into place to ensure contact with all your teeth. Teeth whitening strips are typically worn for 30 minutes a day, twice a day. The duration of treatment will vary.
- Teeth Whitening Toothpaste and Mouthwash
The least expensive options are whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes. Designed to have “whitening” capabilities, toothpastes and mouthwashes work to remove surface stains using mild abrasives. However, unlike bleaching materials used in professional whitening procedures, these products do not lighten the actual color shade of the tooth. Whitening toothpastes affect surface stains and will mildly lighten your teeth.
Tooth whitening is not permanent. A touch-up may be needed every year or two and more often if you smoke, drink coffee, tea or wine.
If you would like to learn more about teeth whitening, please contact our practice to schedule an appointment.