How Does Teeth Whitening Work?
When it comes to tooth whiteners, patients have two options: in-office whitening treatments or home whiteners. Both options use a peroxide gel bleaching agent. At-home systems contain from 3% to 20% peroxide (carbamide or hydrogen peroxides.) In-office systems contain from 15% to 43% peroxide and usually yield the best whitening results.
Generally, the longer you keep a stronger solution on your teeth, the whiter your teeth become. However, the higher the percentage of peroxide in the whitening agent, the shorter it should be applied to the teeth. Side effects of keeping the gel on too long include tooth dehydration and increased tooth sensitivity.
Your dentist can help you decide which type of bleaching agent is right for you. Not everyone will see similar results. Tooth bleaching will not whiten porcelain crowns or composite tooth-colored bondings.
The Advantages of Bleaching Teeth Professionally
Whitening toothpaste contains chemicals or polishing agents that brighten tooth enamel by about one shade. Whitening strips come in a home whitening kit and must be applied once or twice a day for 10 to 14 days, with results lasting approximately four months. These teeth whitening products may be appropriate options for patients with sensitive teeth.
Professional teeth brightening generally gets teeth three to eight shades brighter. In-office treatments usually take a few 30-to-60-minute visits, though some dentists use techniques that can be performed in a single, two-hour appointment.
Dentist-prescribed, at-home tooth bleaching systems use molded trays filled with bleaching gel to achieve similar results. Trays are placed over the teeth for one to several hours a day for up to four weeks, depending on tooth color.
Professional tooth whitening gets teeth brighter, faster, and with longer-lasting results.
Who Can Get Teeth Whitening?
Many factors can contribute to stained or yellowed teeth:
- Coffee and dark teas
- White and red wine
- Dark and light-colored carbonated beverages
- Sports drinks
- Acidic or strongly colored foods
- Some prescription medications
- A lack of a proper oral health routine
- The ageing process
Patients with stained or discolored teeth due to these or other factors are good potential candidates for teeth whitening.
The Teeth Whitening Process
For in-office treatments, peroxide gel is applied to the teeth. A laser or special LED light is then used to create a chemical reaction in the teeth, breaking down stains and lightening teeth color.
For an at-home whitening system, your dentist will first take a mold of your teeth. Custom trays that fit your teeth exactly will be made from the mold. These trays are yours to keep and can be used whenever you feel your teeth need additional brightening. The whitening gel is placed in the trays, then fitted onto your teeth. The trays are kept in place for the amount of time prescribed by your dentist in order to achieve the best whitening results, then removed and cleaned, so they’re ready for the next application.
Both office and home teeth whiteners are completely non-invasive and painless, and both are remarkably effective. Most teeth will only get so white before they cannot be made any brighter by additional applications.
Maintaining Your Whiter Smile
Although whitening can’t prevent stains from forming again in the future, good oral hygiene will help to preserve your brighter smile. Some patients slow the speed at which stains accumulate by drinking beverages that stain through a straw and reducing their consumption of those beverages. Swishing your mouth with water after eating or drinking will also help maintain the brightness of your teeth. And quitting smoking can have a tremendous impact on keeping your teeth their whitest.
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