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: in office chairside tooth whitening, take home custom trays, and over-the-counter products. The most popular method is using a home tooth whitening system with custom trays. 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.
Regardless of the method used for whitening, the results are not permanent. A touch-up may be needed every several years, or more frequently, if you smoke or drink coffee, tea, or wine. Custom trays are the most convenient and economic way to maintain your results.
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?
Chairside tooth whitening requires one two-hour office visit. After careful isolation of adjacent soft tissues by a dental assistant, the whitening gel is applied in 3-4 fifteen minute cycles. This is followed by the application of a desenstizing, fluoride gel.
Fabrication of custom trays usually requires two visits. At the first appointment, impressions (molds) will be made of your teeth. At your second appointment, you will try on the trays for proper fit, and adjustments will be made if necessary. The trays are worn with special whitening solution for two hours a day (or overnight) for 10 to 14 days 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.
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.
Things to consider before tooth whitening:
- Results are not permanent;color will fade back to original levels without some form of maintenance.
- If there are existing restorations in the aesthetic zone, they will probably need to be changed, necessitating additional chair time and expense.