Teeth whitening is a cosmetic dentistry treatment that uses bleaching gel to whiten the surface of the teeth. The final results also provide a person with a brighter smile. Teeth whitening can be performed in the office of a dentist or it can be done at the home of a patient. In-office teeth whitening treatments use a laser or light, in combination with a bleaching gel, to activate chemicals that whiten the teeth. The heat from the light accelerates the whitening process that brightens the teeth by removing removes stains and discoloration. At-home whitening kits use a gel and a mouth guard to attain the desired results.
Teeth Whitening Candidates
Ideal candidates for teeth whitening include patients that want to brighten their teeth to reduce the appearance of discoloration. In addition, patients that have tartar on their teeth, or have teeth that have tiny cracks that have absorbed the discoloration, are also ideal teeth whitening candidates.
Teeth Whitening – How it is performed
A teeth whitening treatment in the office of a dentist starts with an examination of the teeth and gums to make sure the person is able to have the treatment. A routine cleaning might be needed before the treatment to eliminate any tarter buildup. The dentist applies a rubber shield or places a special gel on the lips or gums of the patient to protect them during the bleaching process. A light or laser hardens the gel. Then, a bleaching gel is placed on the teeth. The dentist uses the same light on the bleaching gel to activate the bleaching process. Oxygen emerges into the enamel and the color of the teeth is lightened. It takes about 45-60 minutes before the bleaching gel and gum protector are able to be removed. Patients might need to undergo several appointments to achieve the desired final results.
Some dentists use professional bleaching to whiten teeth during a treatment program that they supervise even though the treatments continue at the home of the patient. A patient can expect to have 2-3 dental visits during the supervised program. The first appointment is an examination of the teeth and gums. Dental impressions are taken to create a mouth guard for the teeth of the patient that also minimizes the contact the gums have with the gel. The whitening gel is applied to the mouthpiece and then the mouthpiece is inserted into the mouth. Patients will need to continue their treatments at home each day for 2-4 weeks. The dentist will inspect the progress of the treatment during follow-up exams. The patient can use whitening gels, purchased over the counter, to improve any discoloration of the teeth by applying it using a small brush. Whitening strips, purchased over the counter, are thin strips of plastic coated with a peroxide-based whitening gel that are used twice a day by the patient at home.
Teeth Whitening Recovery and Downtime
Teeth whitening is usually a painless procedure so there is no recovery or downtime after the treatment. Patients can immediately return to performing their usual activities.
They may experience some sensitivity for a day or two after the treatment but Tylenol can be used for relief. Patients are also advised to not eat very hot or cold food and beverages just after they have the treatment.
Teeth Whitening Results
Results from a teeth whitening treatment can be seen after a 30-60 minute treatment. The final results depend on the degree of teeth discoloration. Some patients will need to have multiple treatments to obtain the desired final results. The results normally last for about 4-6 months before they start to fade. The results can be impacted by food or beverages which stain the teeth or by smoking which can cause staining.
Teeth Whitening Limitations
- The amount of whitening is limited by the natural color of the existing shade of the teeth
- Patients with tooth sensitivity or receding gums may not be able to comfortably have a treatment because the active ingredient can burn some of the enamel layer of the tooth
- Patients with cavities cannot have teeth whitening until the teeth are repaired
Teeth Whitening Risks
- Tooth and gum sensitivity following the treatment
- A burning sensation if the bleaching solution comes into contact with the gums
Whiter Teeth and a Brighter Smile
Teeth whitening give patients a brighter smile and an overall healthier appearance to the teeth. Even though the teeth enjoy a whiter and brighter look, teeth whitening is not a permanent solution. The steps that a patient takes after the treatment will show their level of commitment to maintaining a bright and healthy look to the teeth. Brushing, flossing and having regular dental cleanings can help patients maintain whiter teeth and enjoy a healthy smile for a lifetime. Anyone that is interested in having teeth whitening should schedule an appointment with a board-certified dentist to have their teeth and gums examined and evaluated.