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Should I ask my dentist about teeth whitening?


Your dentist will tell you if an available whitening procedure is the right choice for you. Whitening doesn’t fix all types of discolorations. In fact, yellow shaded teeth bleach well compared to brownish colored teeth.  The more, grayish-hued teeth may not lighten well at all.

Bleaching may not enhance your smile if you have bonding or tooth colored fillings on your front teeth. Whitening agents do not affect existing filling materials in your mouth, but they will lighten the natural tooth portion.  For this reason, these fillings may need to be replaced to match the new natural tooth color.

If replacing fillings is not an option in your case, other options are available such as porcelain veneers or composite bonding.


What is in-office bleaching?

If you are a candidate for bleaching, your dentist may suggest a procedure that can be done in the office. This procedure is called chair side bleaching and may require one or more than one visit depending on the type of whitening selected and the techniques used to apply the gel.  If bleaching is done with the use of trays, this type of bleaching will require more than one office visit.

Zoom whitening is a common whitening procedure which requires one dental visit and takes approximately two hours.    This whitening technique starts by covering all of the oral tissues to protect them from the bleaching agent used.  Once this has been done, the gel is applied to the natural teeth and a special light is used to enhance the whitening process.  This technique is done in 3 or  4 cycles of 15 minutes each to give you the whitest result possible for your natural teeth.   It is important that the teeth are cavity and calculus free before this whitening procedure is performed.

Lasers may also be used during tooth whitening procedures to enhance the action of the whitening agent.

What are at-home procedures and products?

There are several types of products available for use at home, which can either be dispensed by your dentist or purchased over-the-counter.

Bleaching Solutions: These products contain peroxide(s), which actually bleach the tooth enamel. These products typically rely on carbamide peroxide as the bleaching agent, which comes in several different concentrations ranging anywhere from 9% –  22%.  The choice of concentration depends greatly on the color of the teeth and the patients sensitivity level.

Peroxide-containing whiteners typically come in a gel and are placed in a mouth guard like bleaching tray. Usage regimens vary.  Some products are used twice a day for 2 weeks, and others are intended for overnight use for 1-2 weeks. If you obtain the bleaching solution from your dentist, they can make a custom-fitted bleaching tray for you that will fit your teeth precisely.

You also may want to speak with your dentist should any side effects become bothersome. For example, teeth can become sensitive during the period when you are using the bleaching solution. In many cases, this sensitivity is temporary and should lessen once the treatment has been completed. Some people also experience soft tissue irritation—either from a poorly fitted tray or from solution that may come in contact with the oral tissues. If you have concerns about such side effects, you should discuss them with your dentist.

Toothpastes: All toothpastes help remove surface stain through the action of mild abrasives. “Whitening” toothpastes have special chemical or polishing agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, these products do not alter the intrinsic color of teeth.

How should I choose a whitening product?

When you choose a whitener, or any dental product, read the labels to assure they have been approved by the ADA for home use or consult with your dentist to make sure the product you are using is safe and effective for you as an individual. Products that have met the ADA standards are safe and effective.

Is teeth whitening really safe?

Definitely. Teeth whitening treatments by dental offices have been used for years. Dental offices have proved that they are indeed safe. Home application is also safe if directions are followed. If problems occur such as teeth sensitivity or gum irritation, the use should be reduced from everyday to every other day. The majority of people experience mild to moderate pain sensitivity, but it normally goes away after the treatment has been completed.

How does the whitening treatment work?

An impression of your teeth is taken at the dental office and poured up to produce models which are an exact replica of your teeth.  From these molds a bleaching tray is constructed to fit your teeth with precision. Whitening gel, which contains the active ingredient Carbamide Peroxide, may then be applied inside the individual trays and inserted over the teeth.   The application time varies depending on the type and strength of the whitening agent selected.

Extending treatment times for faster whitening may be attempted if your teeth are not over-sensitive.  As the gel activates, a slight tingling or bubbling sensation may be felt, which is the oxidation process taking place. Treatment should be done on upper and lower teeth each day until desired whitening is achieved. Twice a day treatments may also, achieve faster whitening results if teeth and gum sensitivity is not apparent.

What occurs during whitening?

During the teeth whitening process, the active Carbamide Peroxide ingredient breaks down allowing oxygen to enter the tooth’s enamel structure where the embedded discolorations (stains) may be lightened by the gel applied.  The structure of the tooth is not changed; only the tooth enamel becomes a lighter and whiter shade. Fillings, crowns, bridges and composite bonding, etc. are not affected by the gel but will not be lightened either.

What is Carbamide Peroxide?

Carbamide Peroxide is the primary active ingredient or bleaching agent in the professional teeth whitening gel. It is essentially a variation of Hydrogen Peroxide and combined with the unique adherence properties of the specially formulated gel, it provides the chemical reaction required to safely whiten your teeth.

The Clinical Pharmacology Classification of Carbamide Peroxide states that there are “No significant interactions”, although some teeth sensitivity or minor gum irritation may be experienced, which normally subsides after completion of treatment.

How long will it take until my teeth are whiter?

Whitening results often become apparent during the first few treatments, but typically a noticeable whitening effect becomes evident after about 8-10 treatments. Teeth will continue to whiten with each successive treatment until desired results are achieved.  Zoom whitening results are obtained in one visit, but as the teeth rehydrate, the teeth will continue to whiten for a few days following the treatment.

Results vary, but in our experience backed by studies, show that 90 to 95% of people experience some level of whitening.

How long do results last?

Results are long lasting for many people, but if there is exposure to coffee, tea, tobacco, wine and other stain producers, it will darken over time.

After initial treatment, some people do touch-ups every 6-8 months based on the amount of stain producing substances that they are exposed to.

The active ingredient in the whitening gel, Carbamide Peroxide in Professional Dental Office strength (25%) and Zoom gel (37%) are used for in office whitening for a faster result in less time.  Home whitening products are reduced in strength to avoid injury or damage to the tissues or teeth but must be used per the instruction provided.