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FAQ tooth whitening

What is tooth whitening?
 Teeth can often be whitened by the several new techniques of "bleaching" available today. The most common methods used are the "in-office" method where a strong bleaching agent is placed over the isolated teeth and a special light is used to assist the bleaching material lighten the teeth. This method is generally more controlled and probably better for people who have tetracycline stains or streaks on their teeth. The "home" techniques involve making trays which fit into the mouth and these are then filled with bleaching materials. When worn for a few hours a day, noticeable results are seen generally within a few days to a couple weeks. Results vary from individual to individual and it is probably best to check with your dentist to help decide which method works best for you. Some of the factors involved include the intensity of the stains, whether or not you have fillings or crowns on your front teeth as well as what may have caused the stains.

What causes staining of teeth?
 The most common include aging, consumption of staining substances (coffee, tea, colas, tobacco, blueberries etc.), and old fillings in the teeth. During tooth formation , consumption of the antibiotic tetracycline or excessive fluoride may also cause tooth discoloration.

Who may benefit from tooth whitening? 
Almost everyone with healthy teeth will benefit. There is virtually no downside to whitening and lots of upside. As long as you do not have any fillings or crowns on front teeth, you will benefit from tooth whitening by having a whiter younger smile.


These are teeth that were stained from smoking.

Is the process safe?
Whitening is gentle and safe when supervised by your dentist. In fact, dentist-supervised whitening has been done for nearly a century, but has increased in popularity in recent years as yellowed teeth are becoming less and less acceptable, both socially and professionally. Procedures have been simplified and shown to be safe.Reports that claim that the bleaching gel will destroy your enamel are not true. The bleaching process causes no long term harmful effects to your teeth or gums.

How long does it take?
 With in-office bleaching the results are instantaneous but for maximum whitening, two sessions are required. With tray bleaching most people will notice a change in the color of their teeth the first night they bleach. Tray bleaching takes about 7-10 days to complete. For the fastest and longest lasting results, we recommend a combination of in-office and home whitening.

Are there any side effects?  
Some people may experience a transient sensitivity to cold while bleaching. This disappears soon after the treatment is finished. However you can decrease the frequency of wearing the trays to cut down or eliminate the symptoms. Your dentist may also choose to prescribe a fluoride gel that you wear in the trays for extreme sensitivity. It is important to note that all symptoms are temporary while you are bleaching. There are no long term harmful effects to bleaching.


These are some teeth that were genetically stained.

How long do the results last?  
Teeth will stay bleached permanently. However depending on your habits, you may need a touch up treatment once every 6 months. If you smoke, drink tea, coffee, or red wine, your teeth will stain faster therefore requiring more frequent touch ups.
You can help your teeth remain white by brushing twice a day, cleaning between the teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners, seeing your dentist for regular professional cleanings along with occasional touch-up treatments.

What are the different methods available for whitening teeth?
 The two main methods for bleaching are In-office bleaching and a tray system.
 With in office bleaching, a special light is used to heat the bleaching gel to start the whitening process. The light can be either a laser or a plasma arc curing light. The basic idea is to heat the bleach to make the whitening reaction go faster.
 With tray bleaching, custom fitting trays are made for your teeth in which a bleaching gel is worn for a period of 7 to 10 days. Although slower, the results achieved are usually superior than in office treatment. We usually do a combination of in-office and tray bleaching for the best results.

How did my teeth get so yellow?
Over the years, like almost everyone, you've experienced a natural buildup of organic pigments on your teeth. Colorized proteins from coffee, tea, and other foods have simply darkened the natural whiteness of your teeth. The use of tobacco, antibiotics, and certain minerals usually speeds the darkening process. But, yellowing can be easily reversed.

What's the difference between dentist-supervised and over-the counter treatments?
 There are many differences, starting with the fact that your teeth and your own dental situation are absolutely unique. Which is why the safety of your treatment requires a dentist's evaluation and supervision. You'll also find that custom trays designed by the dentist will fit better and will consequently expel far less bleaching gel than the unsupervised, over-the-counter, one-size-fits-all treatment alternatives.

What about those over the counter products?
The "boil-and-bite" trays used by the over-the-counter products overlap soft tissue producing more irritation. They also feel bulky in your mouth. This results in discomfort and possible TMJ problems.

    • A dentist-designed tray is less bulky.
    • It conforms more closely to the natural contours of the teeth, is far more comfortable, and assures a superior result.
    • You'll find a significant difference in both the comfort and safety of dentist-designed trays vs. unsupervised over-the-counter, one-size-fits-all, "boil & bite" trays.
Who can use tooth whitening?
Nearly anyone ages nine to 90. If you want to obtain a more confident smile by improving the whiteness of your teeth, talk to us.

What if I have more questions?
Just ask your dentist. We'll be happy to refer you to a dentist in your area who is experienced with tooth whitening.

How does whitening work?
Your dentist will first check your teeth and gums to be sure that you begin the treatment in good dental health. Then your dentist will take an impression of your teeth in order to provide you with a custom fit plastic tray designed to hold the bleaching gel next to your teeth. Following the bleaching program your dentist suggests, you'll notice the results quickly, as the gentle oxygenating action of the gel begins to whiten your teeth. Your dentist may choose to begin with a short in-office bleaching session.

Is there any discomfort?
There is little, if any. Some patients might feel an increased sensitivity to cold, heat, or pressure during the whitening process, but this sensitivity ends a day or two after the treatment is completed. Any note of persistent discomfort should be reported to your dentist.

Will the whitening damage my teeth?
Not at all. The whitening process will not affect your enamel, tooth structure, bonding or restorations. Whitening acts only on the molecules that carry the discoloration.

How long will it last?
Non-smokers who don't drink coffee or tea often see little or no change over five years. But your own long-term results will depend on your habits and the specific foods you eat. Based on those variables, some patients may require a "touch-up" treatment at regular intervals.


General Tips

  • For sensitive teeth avoid foods with citric acid. If sensitivity persists:
    • Have patient call office immediately.
    • Prescribe fluoride for alternate nights.
  • Purple tray after bleaching session indicates presence of zinc in fillings.
  • Keep bleach refrigerated (store standard bottles upside-down).
  • Do not smoke, eat or drink with tray in place.
  • Pregnant women should only bleach with the agreement of their physicians.
  • Bleach upper arch first.
  • Wait two weeks before doing crowns or fillings.

Key Benefits of bleaching

  • Corrects browns, yellow and mottle tooth staining
  • Works on people of any age.
  • Is a near permanent solution for a "dull" smile, restoring brightness and brings a smile alive.


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