Professional tooth bleaching is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to improve your smile. There are many tooth “whitening” products available over the counter at local stores. Products that claim they “whiten” your teeth are designed to remove the stains on the outside of your teeth caused by foods like coffee, tea, red wine and berries.
Professional tooth bleaching removes these external stains, but also lightens and brightens the actual color of your teeth, making them less yellow. The natural color of your teeth is inherited, just like red hair and blue eyes. Everyone’s teeth darken or get more of a yellow color as we age. Professional bleaching lightens the actual color of your teeth making you look younger.
In-Office Professional Tooth Bleaching
Professional tooth bleaching is accomplished in our office and produces faster results. The process involves applying special protection to your gums, and then 3-4 applications of a professional strength bleaching agent. Each application takes approximately 10-15 minutes, for a total appointment time of 1-1.5 hours. Depending on the results you want, you may return for additional visits. The first step will be to identify the current color of your teeth using a professional color chart. Each bleaching appointment will lighten your teeth one step on this color chart. For patients whose goal is to lighten multiple steps the in-office bleaching process can be repeated every 30 days. You can also followup the in-office process with continued bleaching at home.
At-Home Professional Tooth Bleaching
At-home professional tooth bleaching uses a weaker version of the bleaching chemical, applied to your teeth in custom fit trays that we make for you. At the first appointment we will measure the current color of your teeth and take impressions to fabricate the custom trays. At the second appointment we will deliver your trays and go over the instructions for bleaching at home. After brushing and flossing your teeth you will apply a bead of the bleaching gel to the inside of the trays. The trays are then inserted over your teeth and worn for a minimum of one hour. You should not eat or drink while the trays are in place. After removing the trays, brush your teeth and rinse the trays out. At-home tooth bleaching is designed for you to wear the trays every night for 6-8 weeks. Four weeks of wearing the trays every night for an hour will lighten your teeth one step on the color chart, and is the equivalent of one office appointment. The in-office and at home systems are equally effective, and the method you choose is simply your personal preference.
How long does bleaching last?
Since the over-the-counter “whitening” products only remove stain on the outside, your teeth begin to stain again as soon as you drink coffee, tea, red wine or eat berries. For professional bleaching, the color of your teeth is changed internally, although they can still stain from colorful food and drink. The internal color will still slowly darken over time, as it is a process of aging. Many patients use trays to bleach their teeth at some regular interval (monthly, quarterly) for one session to maintain the results of the initial color change.
What about sensitivity?
The chemical that bleaches your teeth can increase tooth sensitivity. This increase in sensitivity is temporary and can be easily managed. Brushing your teeth with a toothpaste for sensitive teeth for 3-4 weeks prior to bleaching will drastically reduce this side effect, and can be maintained throughout the process and for a few weeks after. For in-office bleaching we recommend taking an over the counter painkiller at least one hour before the appointment and then again 2-6 hours later. For patients with very sensitive teeth we offer a special gel that can be worn in the same trays used for bleaching that will prevent or treat this side effect.
Does bleaching harm your teeth?
The active ingredient in professional dental bleaching products was actually invented to treat dental infections. It can be used to prevent cavities and to treat some forms of gum disease. If used in excess over very long periods of time the bleach can cause some minor changes to the tooth’s surface enamel. We will help you choose the appropriate frequency of bleaching to achieve your esthetic goals and prevent any over-use of the bleaching chemicals.