Get Advice for Teeth Bleaching
January 6, 2000
Dear Dr. Mady: I am interested in getting my teeth whitened to improve my smile. I've heard about take-home kits that your dentist can give you but I can't stand the thought of wearing trays full of bleaching gel to sleep for at least a week. Is there anything that's quicker and easier? - Shannon
Dear Shannon: Your dental office is the best place to start if you are interested in whitening or bleaching your teeth to improve your smile and self-image. Always seek professional advice first so that the treatment can be customized to your needs.
The best choice for you would be "in-office bleaching" for a safe and quick treatment that yields optimal results. It is sometimes called "power-bleaching" or "laser bleaching", depending on the equipment used.
The process is simple and can usually be done in about one hour at the dentist's office. If your teeth are severely discolored from fluorosis, drug therapy (like tetracycline), trauma or genetics, they may require more than one in-office session.
After a thorough dental history, cleaning and sometimes taking photos of your teeth, your dentist will take the shade of your teeth and begin by isolating your lips, gums and the inside lining of your mouth to protect them from the whitening agent (usually 35% hydrogen peroxide).
Gel is then applied to your teeth and a special heatless light source or laser is used to activate the bleaching agent by breaking down the peroxide and causing an oxygenation process. It is this reaction that whitens the enamel and the dentin layer beneath the enamel. This can be done two or three times during one appointment if necessary.
This whitening is far superior to traditional bleaching methods because dramatic results are achieved with just one treatment. Also, your dentist or hygienist has complete control of the bleaching process and can make sure the bleach does not touch soft tissues or get ingested, unlike take-home kits. There are also fewer side-effects.
Sensitivity is almost always present while using at-home bleaching agents but that will disappear when the process is completed. With in-office whitening, tooth sensitivity is greater because of the concentration of hydrogen peroxide. But the process is much shorter, as is the sensitivity period.
Ultimately, the original shade of your teeth and the desired shade will dictate how many treatments are required. In-office whitening is more costly than home bleaching because of the equipment, gel products and labor involved.
You may even experience a color difference that is two to ten shades whiter than your original shade on the Vita scale used by most dentists. Wow!
This column is reprinted with the permission of the author and The Windsor Star. "Ask the Dentist" is written by Windsor dentist (and ECDS member), Dr. David Mady Jr.. The column appears the first Thursday of each month in the Windsor Star. Readers with questions can write to "Ask The Dentist", c/o The Windsor Star, 167 Ferry St., Windsor Ontario, N9A 4M5