Although there is no generally established standard for “how white” your teeth should be, some patients are concerned about the color of their teeth. Over time, your teeth can become discolored as a result of aging, disease, medications, or staining (as a result of the use of coffee, tea, cigarettes, or cola drinks). The discolorations can range from simple “yellowing” to more drastic discoloration due to disease or other factors.
Our dentists can offer you many solutions to this. Teeth whitening is a procedure that our dentists can utilize to remove the discoloration and restore brightness to your smile. There are several different types of teeth whitening:
- Simple teeth bleaching – This is a chemical process that is applied by the dentist in the office, and that can be supplemented by the patient performing it at home. The bleaches used are usually peroxide-based, safe, and effect a gradual change in the color of your tooth enamel. Often the dentist may fit the patient for a custom mouthpiece or tray, which measures the proper amount of the bleaching gel and holds it in place. The patient can then wear the mouthpiece at home, for several hours during the day or night.
- Light-amplified teeth bleaching – This is a similarly chemical process that is applied by the dentist in the office after protecting the gums, but is then “activated” by exposing the teeth to light or heat, which activates the gel and makes it work even faster.
- Laser teeth whitening – Performed in-office by a dentist, this procedure involves the application of a whitening gel, after which a laser is used on individual teeth to activate the crystals in the gel and penetrate the tooth enamel, causing the whitening effect.
What should you expect if you have your teeth whitened?
In general, light-activated chemical bleaching or laser whitening are initially more expensive, but also require the least investment of your time. A single visit is usually all that is required. There is usually no need for any anesthetic, because the procedures are painless. The change in tooth coloration using this process is immediate, usually completed in one session.
Simple teeth bleaching is generally less expensive, but may require more visits to the dentist to measure you for custom mouthpieces, to make sure of a proper fit, and to follow up on your progress. The mouthpiece itself is thin and allows you to talk and work, but some patients choose to wear it at night, while sleeping. Effects will be seen in as little as one to two weeks.