The outcome of at-home whitening depends on how compliant you are. Your smile can only become brighter with these products if you use them as often as their directions instruct you to. It's not about the intensity, but the frequency of use. We're dealing with a significantly less amount of hydrogen peroxide here (three percent versus twenty percent used in dentist's offices), so contact time (between the peroxide and your teeth) is crucial.
While tray-and-gels can be very effective on my tougher-stained patients as a 3-4-day in-office procedure follow-up, for the majority of typical staining cases, I do not consider them to be the most effective treatment. Overuse of the system is a big temptation, and even when used appropriately, sensitivity problems are frequent. Furthermore, there is no one to monitor usage. With all of the advancements in whitening, there are other safer and equally effective options.
Teeth whitening performed in a dentist’s office usually takes 30 to 90 minutes, and you will need one to three appointments, depending upon the method used, how severe your stains are, and how white you want your teeth to be. Different types of stains respond differently to the treatment.
First, your dentist will apply a substance that covers and protects the gums around the teeth. Then, the whitening agent, usually hydrogen peroxide, will be placed on the teeth.
After the whitening agent is applied, the dentist will activate the whitening agent with a laser light. If your teeth are badly discolored, your dentist may suggest that you continue the bleaching process at home for a few days or weeks.
For teeth whitening done at home, your dentist will first make impressions of your upper and lower teeth and will make custom mouthpieces for you. The mouthpiece should fit well, as a close fit helps the whitening agent remain in contact with your teeth.
At home, you will fill each mouthpiece with a whitening gel your dentist provides. You will wear the mouthpiece for several hours every day. Many people achieve the amount of whitening they want within a week or two. However, you may need to wear the mouthpiece for a few weeks or longer.
You also can buy whitening products over-the-counter. They contain a weaker whitening agent than the products you can get from your dentist, and as a result, whitening will take longer. The whitening agent is applied as a gel placed in a mouthpiece or as a strip that sticks to your teeth. Over-the-counter mouthpieces fit less securely than the kind you get from your dentist.
Whitening toothpastes are available as well. They contain abrasives that remove stains on the enamel, and do not actually change the overall color of your teeth.
Your teeth should have a uniformly whiter appearance after you have professional teeth whitening. However, the full color change of your teeth may not be apparent for two to six weeks, according to the American Dental Association. You may experience some side effects after professional teeth whitening, such as sensitive teeth. These side effects are usually mild and short lasting.
Professional whitening uses the most potent amount of hydrogen peroxide activated even more by high-intensity light wavelengths to bleach deeper and more easily.
An in-office whitening procedure costs anywhere between $500 to $1200, and it can safely lighten teeth up to 12 shades. Unfortunately, that 12-shades-brighter brilliance is usually short-lived. After about three to six months, a majority of the whitening naturally starts to regress.
Laser teeth whitening treatments are generally regarded as safe. Teeth whitening with a laser light may allow the bleaching to happen faster. Some people experience sensitive teeth and mild gum irritation temporarily after laser treatment for whitening teeth.
The American Dental Association (ADA) does not list teeth whitening products using lasers on their list of accepted products because it has not seen published, peer reviewed data on the safety of this type of teeth whitening. However, that does not mean that the products are not safe and effective.
If you decide to have your smile professionally whitened, make sure you choose a reputable aesthetic dentist. Like any kind of treatment, it's vital that you know you're in capable hands. Getting an in-office whitening by a dentist who filled in your cavities two decades ago and has remained in that era ever since is not the person to go to for state-of-the-art whitening. Try to find a dentist who specializes in aesthetic or cosmetic dentistry. When you meet with him, ask what kind of system is used. Look for the names that I mentioned, like Zoom, Den-Mat or Lumalight. Ask who's going to do the procedure. It should be either the dentist or the hygienist. If it's the hygienist, ask how he was trained and how long he's been performing the procedure. Ask how many patients' teeth he's whitened. If the dentist isn't doing it himself, he should at the very least be overseeing it, checking in on you and your progress every 30 minutes or so.