Nobody wants a dingy yellow or gray smile. Teeth whitening is a popular, affordable cosmetic dental treatment that offers a quick, non-invasive and effective way to enhance a smile. There are several types of whitening (or bleaching) treatments available to satisfy every budget, time frame and personal preference. Whether you prefer professionally administered one-hour whitening sessions at a dental office, or home-use bleaching kits purchased at your dental office or local drugstore, there are options for everyone who would like to brighten their smile without having veneers or crowns.
Virtually everyone who opts for teeth whitening sees a moderate to substantial improvement in the brightness and whiteness of their smile. That said, it’s not a permanent solution. It does require occasional maintenance or “touch-ups” for a prolonged effect.
Many people’s teeth are actually light shades of yellow, grey, brown or orange. Keeping them clean through good home care and regular professional cleanings is the best way to insure they stay clean and bright, but sometimes, even with the best of home care practices, teeth can darken as we get older. Heavy drinking of coffee, tea, or red wine; consuming foods like mustard, tomato sauce, berries, citrus fruits; and smoking can stain your teeth. Brushing immediately after eating and drinking these things CAN help reduce staining, but is typically not enough to prevent it entirely. Fortunately, stained and yellow teeth don’t have to stay that way!
There are several options. Let’s review them here:
The most commonly used products are “whitening” toothpastes. Although these may help a little bit over time, they also contain abrasives that can wear down your enamel.
One inexpensive option is to use over the counter “white strips”. Although this can work for some people who need minimal improvement, the limited amount of bleaching agent they are allowed to contain as an over-the-counter product, requires diligence and a longer time to get good results than other options. For darker, more intrinsic discoloration, other methods are more effective.
Another option, is to have custom trays made by your dentist and use at-home bleaching gel kits. These treatments are convenient because you can do them as little or as much as you like, and have some control over achieving the result you want. This is a less expensive professional way to whiten teeth because once the trays are created, they can be used at any time. We provide a professional grade whitening solution to use at home. The trays are worn for an hour or so every day for anywhere from a few days to two weeks, until the desirable result is achieved. It’s important to follow your dentist’s instructions carefully on how to use the gel/trays, as too much gel in the trays will seep onto gum tissues and may cause sore gums and sometimes, even inflammation.
Once your teeth are the shade you want, you simply stop wearing them. One thing many patients really like about this option is that is gives them control over it. It can be done anywhere, making it possible to do at home, or anywhere you happen to be. Additional whitening solution can be purchased at our office anytime you run out!
Then, there’s the gold standard: Professionally supervised in-office teeth whitening followed by custom fitted take-home trays mentioned above.
This is the most efficient, effective, long-lasting method. It is done in about an hour in the dental chair. Typically, after ahis one-hour treatment, your teeth are significantly whiter: about 7-10 shades lighter! (Compared to retail products, which might provide an improvement of 1-2 shades). Then, you follow up at home with the in-home trays and bleaching gel.
Remember! Whitening your teeth is a process, not a one-time treatment. It will require some level of maintenance on your part, because your teeth will slowly begin to darken again over time. (That’s what is so nice about the at-home trays-YOU are in control and can touch up at your convenience, as soon as you notice things changing.)
It’s important to note that this can only be done on natural, virgin, unrestored teeth; Crowns, veneers and bonded fillings are resistant to bleaching. It is also not to be done on teeth with active decay, so be sure to have your dentist check for any existing cavities before you start bleaching.
Professional supervision is really the best way to make certain that you get the results you want.
Our advice? First, have the in-office treatment to give you a big boost of whitening, and follow that with the take-home trays. This will give you an immediate, noticeable improvement AND the ability to maintain it on an as-needed basis.
Also! If you want to lighten your smile and you’re planning on getting veneers or crowns on any front teeth that show when you smile, you might consider bleaching first, before selecting the permanent shade for your veneers/crowns, since through the whitening maintenance, they will be unaffected.
Key Points to Remember
- Whitening treatments include over-the-counter (OTC) whiteners, in-office bleaching procedures, and dentist-supplied products for use at home.
- Whitening treatments can be effective on both extrinsic and intrinsic staining.
- Only natural teeth can be whitened, not tooth-colored restorations.
- Carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide are commonly used in whitening products and can permeate dental hard tissues.
Temporary tooth sensitivity and gingival inflammation are the most common adverse effects of tooth whitening. (Your dentist may prescribe a prescription grade fluoride rinse to use to help combat the sensitivity, if it’s too uncomfortable. This reaction varies widely from person to person.
Finally, if there are additional issues that need to be addressed like chipped or crooked teeth, you may want to consider porcelain veneers or crowns.
Our office offers a complimentary consultation. If you have immediate needs or questions about what can be done to improve your smile, call us today at 214-956-9100 to schedule yours.