What you need to know about teeth whitening.

Teeth whitening or dental bleaching is a way for you to make your teeth whiter by chemically changing the color of your teeth. You are a candidate for this procedure if you have healthy teeth with few fillings and healthy gums. If you have existing crowns, caps or veneers on your teeth, these teeth will not respond to bleaching.

Teeth with more yellowish tones respond better to bleaching. Teeth that are gray or are very dark do not respond as well. If you have tobacco, coffee or red wine staining on your teeth, it’s best to have your teeth cleaned professionally before bleaching.
Bleaching, if done correctly, can whiten your teeth between 4 and 9 shades. It can produce a very positive result in your smile.

There are basically two methods to whiten teeth: bleaching gel and laser, or light activated bleaching. Both methods use oxidizing agents such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to lighten the shade of the teeth. The amount of whitening achieved is dependent on the strength of the bleaching agent in the gel.

If you use the bleaching gel option, you will need a tray that fits snugly around your teeth. You then put the gel in the tray, and wear the tray once a day for 15-20 minutes. You repeat this process as often as you would like to acquire a shade that works for you. However, beware of teeth sensitivity, which is sometimes a by product of bleaching gels. If your teeth do indeed become sensitive, you would discontinue the use of the trays until the sensitivity diminishes.

Over the counter bleaching gels are usually weaker in strength than gels dentists are licensed to distribute. Also, the “one size fits all” trays that you get in over the counter products can be ill-fitting, causing the gel to irritate the gums and soft tissues in your mouth. The gel will work better if you get a custom tray made for you from a dentist.
The gel will stay on your teeth longer, and you probably will not get gum irritation.

Laser, or light activated bleaching utilizes light energy to accelerate the process of bleaching in the dental office. The dentist or his staff will cover your gums with a protective coating, and then apply the bleaching material to the teeth and use a light or laser to activate the bleaching material. In office bleaching usually takes about 1 hour.

You will see the results immediately after this procedure. Your teeth can be sensitive after this procedure, but the sensitivity usually lasts less than 24 hours.

In our office, we use the Boost system, and we find it works great. But there are other systems out there like BriteSmile that also work well.

Whitening is not permanent. People who expose their teeth to foods and beverages that cause staining (i.e. red wine, coffee) will see the whiteness fade in as little as 1 month.
If this happens, you can re-bleach the teeth to regain the whiter color. In our office, we give all our patients custom take home trays to use with a gel after getting the light activated bleaching (Boost). This way, if the whitening fades over time, they can recharge their smile by re-bleaching with the gel at home. 

Author
Archer Katz

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