Tooth whitening, or dental bleaching, is one of the most common elective cosmetic dental procedures. Dentists practicing general dentistry and family dentistry, as well as cosmetic dentistry, frequently perform teeth whitening procedures. Tooth whitening is also commonly performed as part of a smile makeover, or as an individual procedure, by a cosmetic dentist. Some types of tooth whitening can be done at home; some are purchased over-the-counter while others must be obtained from a dentist.
A bright white smile is a lovely sight to behold, but as we age our teeth naturally experience some level of discoloration. There are many reasons that teeth become darker. Sometimes changes in tooth color result from changes to the dentin, an internal tooth structure. Changes in tooth enamel can also contribute to tooth discoloration. Certain food and drink (especially tea, coffee, red wine, and soda) as well as bacteria and tobacco can cause a change in the appearance of teeth, as can exposure to select antibiotic medications. When pursuing tooth whitening procedures it is wise to discuss your lifestyle with your cosmetic dentist. They may advise you to make certain changes, such as forgoing tea and giving up smoking, to maximize the effectiveness of your tooth whitening procedure.
There are many options in tooth whitening and dental bleaching. Talking with your dentist is the best way to determine the right type of tooth whitening program for your individual needs. According to the American Dental Association there are four basic options for tooth whitening:
- In-office bleaching is performed by general dentist, a family dentist, or a cosmetic dentist in the office setting.
- Non-dental whitening procedures are administered in tooth whitening offices that do not provide other dental services. Malls Kiosks, spas, salons, and office buildings offer non-dental tooth whitening.
- At-home bleaching involves the use of bleaching products provide by a dental professional; however these products are applied by the individual in their own home.
- Over-the-counter whitening products do not require prescriptions from dentist. They are available in a wide variety of grocery and drug stores.
In-office Tooth Whitening
Cosmetic dentists offer a variety of highly effective methods of in-office tooth whitening methods. The cosmetic dentist will apply a highly concentrated peroxide gel to the teeth. This gel can cause burns to gums and surrounding tissue if not applied properly. As a precaution, the cosmetic dentist will carefully apply a paint-on rubber dam to the gums before coating the teeth with the peroxide gel. The entire process usually takes about one hour during which time the cosmetic dentist will perform several applications of the peroxide gel. It is usually left on for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Depending on the specific system of tooth whitening being used, a bright light may be used to accelerate the effects of the bleaching gel.
tooth whitening produces easily visible results in a relatively short period of time. Individuals with excessive or deep staining may benefit from a second tooth whitening session; in some cases the cosmetic dentist may suggest the use of an at-home method of tooth whitening. Tooth whitening performed by a cosmetic dentist ranges in cost, but the nationwide average is around $650 per visit.
Sometimes patients’ teeth stains are extensive and internal in nature. These stains are often caused by exposure to tetracycline and overexposure to fluoride. If your dentist diagnosis your tooth discoloration as the result of stubborn, internal stains the dentist may recommend a multi-step deep bleaching approach. This type of bleaching involves multiple visits to the office for a variety of procedures; however it may be the most effective option for some people. Considering the number of visits and the amount of customized products required for a deep cleaning protocol the cost can be considerable. The nationwide average for this type of tooth whitening is around $1400.
Non-Dental Tooth Whitening
With demand for tooth whitening on the rise, many free-standing tooth whitening centers have been opened. When considering tooth whitening at a tooth whitening center be sure to get a checkup from a dentist first. The ADA recommends a thorough dental cleaning and check before undergoing any tooth whitening treatment.
Popular types of non-dental tooth whitening include BriteSmile, Zoom, and Laser Speed tooth whitening. The whitening technician will apply a highly concentrated peroxide gel to the teeth. This gel can cause burns to gums and surrounding tissue if not applied properly. As a precaution, the whitening technician will carefully apply a paint-on rubber dam to the gums before coating the teeth with the peroxide gel. The entire process usually takes about one hour during which time the cosmetic dentist will perform several applications of the peroxide gel. It is usually left on for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Depending on the specific system of tooth whitening being used, a bright light may be used to accelerate the effects of the bleaching gel.
All of these methods of tooth whitening produce easily visible results in a relatively short period of time. Individuals with excessive or deep staining may benefit from a second tooth whitening session. It is common for the whitening technician to recommend the follow-up use of an at-home method of tooth whitening. These supplies are often provided by the whitening center and are usually included in the cost of the procedure. Costs for tooth whitening performed at tooth whitening centers vary depending on location and procedure, however they average around $400 per visit.
At-Home Tooth Whitening
Tooth whitening systems dispensed by dentists for individual, at-home application have proven to be a very effective way to achieve a whiter, brighter smile. Although in-office methods of tooth whitening often produce a more immediately visible result, dentists concur that over time the at-home whitening methods can produce wonderful results. The key to the success of these tooth whitening treatments lies in the fact that they use a lesser concentration of the bleaching agent. The frequent application of low-doses of whitener can have a somewhat cumulative effect because small amounts of the bleaching agent remain active within the structure of the tooth for several days. This means that when a new dose of bleach is applied the effect is somewhat magnified. Your dentist will likely make an impression of your mouth in order to create a customized whitening tray. A well-fitting tray is key to maximizing the effectiveness of the tooth bleaching system. There are a variety of brands of at-home tooth whitening systems. Consult with your cosmetic dentist or family dentistry office to find out which one is best for you. As with all forms of tooth whitening, the ADA recommends a thorough dental exam before beginning an at-home tooth whitening program. The cost of at-home tooth whitening varies depending on brand, however the average cost is around $300 to start. The cost of refill gels varies across product lines.
Over-The-Counter Tooth Whitening
A quick walk around any grocery or drug store will quickly illustrate the range of over-the-counter tooth whitening products currently available. Effectiveness varies depending on the type of product. The ADA recommends a thorough dental examination by a family or cosmetic dentist before beginning any tooth whitening system. It is wise to discuss any type of tooth whitening products with your dentist. A prescription is not required to purchase most over-the-counter tooth whitening products, but their improper use can lead to problems. Gums can become irritated or even damaged when over-the-counter tooth whitening products are applied incorrectly or too frequently, and tooth enamel can become damaged. Over-use can also lead to unnaturally white teeth that take on an odd, blueish hue. Your dentist can help you select the best type of over-the-counter tooth whitening system and guide you in its safe and proper application.
Popular types of over-the-counter tooth whitening products include gel trays, adhesive strips, brush-on whitening agents, bleaching and whitening toothpastes, and even whitening floss, which can be effective in removing stains between teeth. The cost of these tooth whitening products varies from $20-$100.
Tooth whitening is generally a safe procedure when performed correctly, however there are some minor side-effects to be aware of. The most common side-effect of tooth whitening, whether performed in a cosmetic dentist office, a tooth whitening center, at home with products provided by a dentist, or even with over-the-counter, non-prescription products is increased tooth sensitivity. Sensitivity typically fades quickly, but may persist up to several days. Gum irritation may occur as a result of tooth whitening; however this unpleasant reaction is more common with over-the-counter methods and results from ill-fitting trays and strips which consequently expose the gums to the bleaching agents. Tooth whitening is not recommended for pregnant and nursing mothers, as there is a lack of scientific data regarding safety for these women. As a general rule, tooth whitening should not be done on children under the age of 16. This is because teeth are still in a developmental phase and the pulp of the tooth may become overly irritated by the bleaching agent.
Choosing a tooth whitening system or product can be overwhelming. With so many options and such a wide range of prices the best first step in any tooth whitening regimen is a discussion with the dentist. Setting up an appointment to discuss the various types of tooth whitening methods and to have a thorough dental exam will ensure the best results when pursuing a whiter, brighter smile.