Teeth whitening is the procedure by which the color or shade of teeth is lightened by means of a whitening or bleaching gel.
There are three basic types of teeth whitening procedures and products. In-office, take-home trays and over the counter. In-office teeth whitening can be done in two ways: with or without light activation. Systems such as Zoom! and BriteSmile have made light-activated whitening systems very popular in the last few years, and patients usually ask for it by their brand name, even though there is a multitude of different systems and they are all the same. In recent studies, it has been shown that the UV light activation of the whitening gel has shown no significant effect on the final result and in-office non-light activated systems are an equally effective and safer option. Take-home trays are perhaps the most widely performed cosmetic procedure in dentistry. Customized plastic trays are made for the patient. These trays fit snugly around the teeth and carry the whitening gel, that will stay in contact with the surface of the tooth for periods ranging from 30 minutes to a few hours depending on the gel prescribed. The trays are worn for the specified time, for a few days, until the desired level of teeth whitening is achieved. Over-the-counter products contain the same bleaching agent as the dentist-administered kind but in lower concentrations. Most of them consist of a paint-on or strip delivery system, and the way it works is basically the same, by staying in contact for prolonged periods with the surface of the teeth.
Different dentists will probably tell you different things, and a quick search on the web will give you as many different answers. The truth is that every case and every patient is different, and several factors have to be considered when selecting the best tooth whitening option for you. Factors such as existing restorations, amount and origin of stains, age, habits (smoking, diet), etc., affect in a great manner the final outcome. In our opinion, the best results are obtained with a take-home trays whitening system, and for a quick jump-start to the process for those in need of a “quick white,” the combination of in-office and take-home trays seems to produce great results.
The cost of whitening or bleaching procedures varies depending on the agent used, the delivery system, among other factors. In our office, teeth bleaching costs range from $89 to $650. We usually get special discounts on some whitening products from our suppliers that we are happy to pass along to our patients and we offer several different specials throughout the year (White Fridays, Free Whitening for Life, etc.). Call our office and ask for the current whitening special offer.
One of the side effects of any teeth whitening procedure is tooth sensitivity. The reaction varies from person to person. Newer bleaching gels have added fluoride content and desensitizers that can help in minimizing the effect. Also, lower concentration gels may be indicated if you already have sensitive teeth to begin with.
Procedure times vary depending on the system we select for you. For a chair-side whitening procedure, it can take about one hour each session (2 session minimum is advised). Results are usually seen after the first session. For take-home system, the first visit, when molds of your teeth are made to fabricate the custom trays, will last about 15-20 minutes. Once you have the custom trays, they can be worn daily for periods of 15-60 minutes, and this all depends on your dental history and the concentration of the gel selected for your case. You will see results within three days and the maximum effect after 10-14 days.
How long white teeth last after a bleaching procedure depends on many factors such as your dietary habits: coffee drinking, smoking, etc.