Find a Doctor

Get Informed

Teeth Whitening

Professional in-office and take-home teeth whitening treatments are performed and used under your doctor's supervision. Having a trusted dentist administer or oversee your bleaching treatment can ultimately lead to maximized results and minimized complications. Over-the-counter whitening treatments and home-remedies can be effective at whitening and brightening your tooth's enamel, however, it is important for you to be aware of the differences between using professional strength bleaching systems and commercially available whitening products.

Candidates

Teeth whitening candidates include patients who are unhappy with the appearance of stains or discoloration of the teeth. However, there are certain factors that may preclude patients from being good candidates for treatment. These include:

  • Patients with fabrications or restorations on the front facing teeth (such as porcelain veneers, dental crowns, or dental bonding). The materials used for these treatments do not respond to bleaching agents, while the natural tooth will. In these cases, patients will need to also replace the tooth fabrications to match the new color of the teeth.
  • Patients with instrinsic stains. Instrinsic stains are grey-toned discolorations, white spots on the teeth, or discoloration that results from a "dead" tooth. These stains affect the dentin layer of the tooth. Teeth whitening is most effective on extrinsic stains (typically the yellow or brown-based stains) that affect the enamel layer of the teeth.
  • Patients with extreme tooth sensitivity or worn enamel.

The Procedure

During the in-office teeth whitening procedure, the dentist will place a shield or gel over the gums to prevent or limit the bleaching solution from coming into contact with gum tissue. The dentist will then apply an even layer of the teeth whitening solution to the teeth. The bleaching solution is allowed to remain on the teeth for up to an hour while the whitening agents take effect. With some in-office whitening treatments, a special light is directed at the teeth to activate the whitening solution. Once the time is up, the whitening solution will be removed from the teeth so the patient and dentist can see the results. Some patients may opt to undergo another round of whitening, and others will be satisfied with the degree of whitening that is achieved with one round of treatment.

Dental Bonding ColorThe at-home teeth whitening process is quite different. During the initial appointment, the dentist will take an impression of the teeth and gums. This impression is sent to a dental lab where custom upper and lower teeth whitening trays are fabricated. One to two weeks later, the patient will return to the dentist's office to pick up the trays and at-home whitening kit. The dentist will then advise the patient on its use. Typically, the patient will apply an even amount of whitening solution to each tray. The patient will then wear the trays for as little as 30 minutes a day, or up to overnight; the amount of time the patient wears the trays will depend on the concentration of the bleaching gel, degree of tooth sensititivity, and the desired level of whiteness. After two weeks of use, patients should begin to see desired results.

Benefits

The benefits of teeth whitening extend beyond simply improving the appearance of your smile. In fact, having a whiter smile can positively affect other people's perceptions of you and the way you view yourself. Undergoing professional in-office or take-home teeth whitening treatments has both physical and emotional benefits. Improved Appearance of Your Smile A dazzling, white smile is the hallmark of professional teeth whitening. Whether you choose to undergo bleaching treatments the results are beautiful, natural-looking, and can strip years off of your age. A white, bright, spectacular smile will make you look younger and healthier. How so, you may ask? Well, whitening systems:

  • Aggressively penetrate the tooth's enamel to bleach harsh stains that over-the-counter systems are incapable of addressing
  • Are controllable and customizable, making your treatment tailored to address your cosmetic needs and desires. Your cosmetic dentist can adjust the level of the bleaching agent to help amplify or tone down your whitening results.
  • Can be used in conjunction with other cosmetic dentistry procedures, including porcelain veneers, Invisalign®, dental crowns, dental bridges, and dental bonding, to completely transform the appearance of your smile. The versatility of the teeth whitening procedure makes for a seamless, natural enhancement.

Improved Confidence

Every time you look into the mirror, you should be proud of the reflection that is staring back.

  • Teeth whitening treatments are designed to help you feel confident, and more beautiful than you already are.
  • A whiter smile is meant to accentuate your stunning facial features and highlight your personality.

Quick Results

Whether you choose to undergo treatment in the convenience of your home or the comfort of your dentist's luxurious practice, teeth whitening is a quick and convenient way to brighten the natural pigmentation of your teeth.

  • Professional take-home systems allow you to whiten your smile in the privacy of your own home and do not necessitate a lengthy dental visit. Typically an at-home system will be used over the course of several weeks; though treatment requires more time, it is still effective.
  • In as little as one hour you can achieve a dazzling, whiter smile through in-office, doctor supervised treatments. The results of in-office teeth whitening are often slightly more dramatic than at-home treatment as well; in some cases, teeth can be whitened by up to eight shades in just an hour.

Safe and Non-invasive

Bleaching is one of the most non-invasive cosmetic dentistry procedures on the market. With the ever growing popularity of teeth whitening treatment, dentists around the globe are offering a greater variety of bleaching systems to their patients. Additionally, the ability to whiten your smile has become a high demand, and more manufacturers are placing whitening agents in toothpastes, polishes, fluorides, flosses, and other hygienic products. Although obtaining a whiter smile has become more convenient, the use of certain bleaching products can actually be more harmful to the health of your smile than beneficial. However, doctor supervised, prescription based whitening systems are safer on the enamel of your teeth and more effective at penetrating and removing deep-set stains.

  • Teeth whitening treatment is a wonderful option for patients with dental anxiety and those who are seeking results without having to invasive cosmetic dentistry procedures.
  • Though porcelain veneers and dental crowns can also transform a smile, more than teeth whitening is capable of doing; it comes at a greater cost and requires greater commitment on the patient's part.

Risks and Side Effects of Teeth Whitening

While teeth whitening treatments can leave your smile looking younger, healthier, and more beautiful, they are some side effects and risks associated with the cosmetic dentistry procedure. Those include varied results, diminished results, and heightened gum and tooth sensitivity.

Tooth Sensitivity

The development of tooth sensitivity is the most common side effect of undergoing teeth whitening treatments. The sensitivity is often caused by over exposure to bleach. This means that if the whitening agent is worn for longer than recommended by your dentist or if it is applied too frequently, your teeth may become sensitive to hot or cold temperatures and substances. While there is no way to predict who may develop the condition, there are indicators as to who may be more prone to experiencing tooth sensitivity following undergoing teeth whitening treatment. You may experience tooth sensitivity if you:

  • Already have sensitive teeth
  • Notice changes in the sensitivity of your teeth following a hygienic cleaning
  • Experience sensitivity following brushing or flossing your teeth or performing a fluoride treatment

Tooth sensitivity can be managed or decreased by using gentle cleansing products, such as Sensitive tooth pastes, and abstaining from using teeth whitening systems for a period of time. However, if the level of your sensitivity increases and begins to affect your daily routine, consult with your dentist.

Gum Sensitivity

While results vary from patient to patient and are likely to change over time, one of the more common, serious problems with teeth whitening is that it can cause heightened gum sensitivity. This condition often develops in patients who are already prone to having sensitive gums. Though irritating, gum sensitivity is temporary, and can be greatly mitigated with experience and a proper treatment plan. Gum sensitivity is often the result of:

  • Improper application
  • Misuse or overexposure
  • The whitening gel comes into contact with the gums
  • Sensitive prone gums

A knowledgeable dentist, dental assistant, or hygienist will take his or her time strategically placing the whitening agent on the exposed surfaces of your teeth, so your gums are left untouched by the powerful bleach. Some cosmetic dentists apply a protective barrier over the gums prior to administering the whitening solution to protect the soft tissue of the mouth.

Gum Irritation

Gum irritation is one of the most common side effects associated with teeth whitening. Gum irritation is often caused by:

  • Usage of an ill-fitting bleaching tray
  • Exposure to bleach
  • Overuse of a whitening agent

Undergoing teeth whitening treatments by an experienced cosmetic dentist will help to minimize risks and side effects from potentially developing and maximize your whitening results. Most doctor supervised whitening treatments require a customized whitening tray be made in order for you to undergo treatment. By first taking an impression of your smile then crafting the bleaching tray from the mold of your bite, you dentist can insure your whitening trays fit conform comfortably to your teeth.

Varied Results

Just as every patient’s smile is unique, the results he or she experiences from undergoing teeth whitening treatment varies. Results, although generally satisfying, are not 100 percent predictable. There are several factors which contribute to the overall outcome of the tooth whitening procedure. The degree of whiteness a patient will achieve depends on several factors, including:

  • The extent of the stain
  • The level of the tooth the stain resides on
  • Lifestyle and dietary habits
  • The type of teeth whitening system that is used
  • The number of treatments a patient undergoes
  • Whether the patient wears whitening trays as directed (in cases of at-home teeth whitening)

Diminished Results

Patients should be aware that although their results may be seen instantly, the intensity of the whiteness may fade in the months and years following professional teeth whitening. Because teeth whitening does not make your smile less susceptible to staining, a patient may need several whitening treatments in the future to maintain desirable results. This can be especially true if the patient:

  • Smokes
  • Drinks tea or soda
  • Consumes coffee
  • Drinks red wine
  • Takes certain medications that discolor the teeth

If you are interested in a more permanent, stain resistant solution for your dingy smile, porcelain veneers, dental bonding, or dental crowns and bridges may be a more satisfying option for you.

Side Effects

Over-the-counter whitening treatments utilize a variety of bleaching agents which range in strength. If not used correctly, the non-prescription whitening solutions can cause damaging, and in some cases irreversible, side effects to develop. If you are considering using teeth whitening products, whether professional-grade or over-the-counter, consult your dentist, first. Being aware of pre-existing conditions, the health of your teeth and gums, and consulting with a licensed dental professional will aid in not placing your oral health in jeopardy. Common side effects of tooth bleaching include:

  • Gum Sensitivity
  • Tooth Sensitivity
  • Gum Redness
  • Gum Irritation
  • Uneven Results
  • Nerve Damage

Effectiveness

Just as fingerprints are unique, no two teeth are identical. Results have shown that patients who use professional strength whitening systems experience more satisfying results in a shorter amount of time, than if using over-the-counter bleaching agents. With the ever growing popularity of teeth whitening, companies are adding peroxide or bleach-based whitening products to a variety of products, including strips, tooth paste, fluoride, mouthwash, tooth polish, whitening pens, and chewing-gum. In order to determine if teeth whitening solutions will effectively penetrate deep set stains, below the outer-lying enamel of your teeth, consult a dentist.

Cost

Have you ever wondered how much money Americans spend of teeth whitening products every year? Consumer reports reveals people spend billions of dollars yearly trying to whiten their teeth. Unfortunately, many consumers don't see desirable results and don't use commercial-grade whitening products to their full effect.

The Procedure – Professional In-Office Teeth Whitening

No matter what form of teeth whitening or bleaching treatment you choose to undergo, whether it is doctor supervised, over-the counter, or a home remedy, the process is relatively simple. However, it is important that you remain mindful of how harmful bleaching can be to your gums, mouth tissue, and enamel if overexposure occurs. In order to achieve satisfying results, listen closely to your doctor’s recommendations for your teeth whitening treatment, take note of steps to follow, and do your research before commencing treatment. When conducted properly, teeth whitening treatment can be effective at deeply penetrating the enamel of a tooth, lifting both superficial and deeper stains and give you the brilliantly dazzling white smile you have always dreamed of having.    

The In-office Teeth Whitening Procedure

To date, in-office bleaching has been proven to be the safest and most effective form of teeth whitening treatment available. Treatments, using ZOOM! Whitening, BriteSmile®, Rembrandt ®, and other popular professional strength brands, are generally performed in following five stages:

1.    Comprehensive Consultation

Exam: A thorough examination of your teeth and gums must be performed in order to determine whether teeth whitening will work well for you.

Shade Analysis: Both before and after treatment, your dentist should match your smile to a shade guide. By documenting your transformation, you will be able to see the measurable difference in the whiteness of your teeth over the course of your treatment.

Discuss Your Goals and Expectations: Your dentist will want to help you achieve natural-looking, satisfying results. In setting realistic expectations for treatment, you are more likely to be pleased with your outcome.

2.    Preparation of the Teeth

Hygienic Cleaning: Prior to beginning your doctor supervised in-office treatment, your teeth and gums should be properly cleansed, flossed, and dried. By purifying the surfaces of your teeth, you dentist can ensure food particles, bacteria, and tartar will not be present to interfere with the power of the bleaching agent.

3.    Application of the Whitening Agent

Strategic Placement: There is a lot of precision and thought involved in applying the whitening solution to the surface of your teeth. The whitening solution will be brushed onto all exposed surfaces, evenly covering the tooth’s enamel so your results appear natural and seamless.

Protecting Your Gums: It is important that the bleach-like mixture does not come into contact with your gums. The whitening gel can inflict burns around the gum line and cause hypersensitivity to develop, which is why most dentists place a gel-like mixture over the surfaces of your gums and around your gum-line. The gel acts as a protective barrier between your mouth tissue and the powerful whitening agent.

4.    Duration of Treatment

Achieving Desirable Results:  In some cases, teeth can be whitened up to eight shades in just one hour. Depending on which treatment is used on your smile, your dentist may use a specialized light to amplify the intensity of the teeth whitening gel.

Intensifying Your Results: The longer your enamel is exposed to the bleaching gel, the more aggressive the bleach is at combating stain deposits in the dentin of your tooth. Most treatments are performed in intervals, allowing your teeth to rest for anywhere from 5-15 minutes, at least twice during a treatment, before being exposed to light energy again.

5.    Additional Treatments

Keeping Your Smile White and Bright: Your dentist may recommend multiple treatments in order to help you achieve desirable cosmetic results. Most patients require at least two in-office whitening treatments in order to reach their cosmetic goals. Additionally, over time, the whiteness of your smile may fade. If this is the case, you may want to undergo treatment every few months or years to maintain satisfying results.

Life-time Whitening: Many dentists offer “life-time” whitening to their patients who pay for their initial teeth whitening treatment, so you should consult with your doctor on the promotions that he or she is currently offering.

Over-the-counter Teeth Whitening

Over-the-counter whitening treatments cost anywhere from $10 to $100, and whitening products range anywhere from $1 to $50. Results have shown that patients who use non-commercial whitening products have to undergo treatments more frequently, within a short period of time, to ultimately see or maintain results. It is important that you consult with your trusted healthcare professional before choosing to undergo treatment of any kind. A dentist will be able to properly evaluate your smile and make a recommendation regarding which teeth whitening treatment is the best to use.

At Home Treatments

Take-home teeth whitening treatments are another way to dramatically whiten the natural luster of your smile. Because this type of whitening treatment is doctor supervised, it is a safe and effective way to enhance the whiteness of your teeth. Take-home treatments are generally performed in the following five stages:

1.    Comprehensive Consultation

Exam: If you express interest in whitening your smile, your dentist can perform a thorough evaluation of your teeth to determine if you are an ideal candidate for teeth whitening.

Shade Analysis: Once it has been determined that teeth whitening will work well for you, your dentist will match your smile to a shade guide, to better evaluate the color of your teeth. Following the conclusion of your treatment, the color of your teeth will once again be matched to the guide, showing you the dramatic whitening results you have achieved.

2.    Customizing Your Whitening Trays

Designing Your Tray: In order to truly tailor whitening treatment to fulfill the cosmetic desires of each patient, your dentist will create your whitening tray out of an impression taken of your smile.

Checking the Fit of the Tray: Once the aligner has been crafted, your dentist will have you try it on to ensure its proper fit. Your dentist will then educate you on how to perform a teeth whitening treatment and how to clean your whitening trays.

3.    Application of the Whitening Agent

Evenly Dispersing the Bleach: Whitening gel is generally administered directly into a customized bleaching tray through the use of a syringe. Once you have dispersed the whitening solution in the base of the tray, you will insert the whitening tray into your mouth, letting it snugly form to the contour of your smile. At that time, the gel will evenly cover the surfaces of your teeth and begin penetrating the natural pigmentation of your enamel. The whitening agent should remain inside the tray throughout the duration of your treatment.

4.    Duration of Treatment

Wearing Your Whitening Tray: The duration of how long the whitening agent should remain on your smile is directly dependant on the strength of the whitening gel your dentist prescribes. Generally, your whitening tray should be worn daily anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour, for at least two weeks.

Performing Multiple Treatments: The results from take-home treatments take longer to see. On average, patients achieve an ideal whiteness following 14 days of routine treatment.

5.    Additional Treatments

Maintaining Your Results: Being cautious about tooth sensitivity and overexposure to bleach, your dentist may advise you to perform a teeth whitening treatments every few months, or whenever your smile is beginning to appear dingy.  You should stop whitening your teeth if you are pregnant, as the whitening agent contains chemicals that can be harmful if swallowed.

Speak to a Dentist in Your Area

If you are considering cosmetic dentistry treatment, we recommend that you contact several dentists in your area to discuss specific prices and financing options. Find a cosmetic dentist in your state today.

comments powered by Disqus

Want More Information?

Contact a Doctor Near You.