Teeth Whitening


A bright white smile has long been indicative of health, youth, contentment and cheerfulness. "Teeth whitening" has become a household term for many Americans today. The tooth whitening procedure falls into the cosmetic dentistry category because the procedure is designed to change the appearance by reducing tooth discoloration and staining for a brighter, whiter smile.


Teeth discoloration and staining is relatively common. Because teeth are porous, they are not stain resistant. Red wine, sodas, coffee and teas- among other food and drink, contribute to tooth discoloration over time. In fact, medications such as tetracycline may produce yellow grayish teeth. After years of exposure to such detriments, the end result may be much less than brilliant white teeth.


The beauty of teeth whitening in the dental office is that the approach is safe and most effective. Your teeth may become 8 to 10 shades whiter within 45 minutes time. During your dental office visit for teeth whitening, you will sit comfortably in the dental chair while your teeth are prepared for whitening. Your dentist will use a tissue barrier to protect the lips and gums. Then, a whitening gel comprised of carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide is applied to the teeth. The application of the whitening gel occurs in 3 sessions over the course of the visit. A special lamp is used to activate the whitening gel and speeds up the whitening process. Once the gel is activated, it remains on the teeth for 15 minutes until the next application of gel for a total of 3 sessions during a single office visit.


While the "once-and-done" approach to teeth whitening occurs with in office teeth whitening, some patients opt for the take-home method whereby the dentist sends you home with a teeth whitening kit. The kit may contain mouth trays that are filled with a teeth whitening gel and placed over the teeth for up to 4 hours of time. In other cases, patients may opt for an over-the-counter tooth whitening kit that may be purchased at a drug store. These kits may contain whitening strips to be placed over the teeth. The take-home teeth whitening approach requires several hours of application over a five to 14 day time period and the results may not be as satisfactory as the in-office approach, depending upon the severity of the tooth discoloration.


Following a tooth whitening procedure, you may experience minimal tooth sensitivity for a very short period of time. It is important to note that tooth whitening may not work for some severe cases of tooth discoloration. In such cases, your dentist may recommend dental veneers.