Are your pearly whites more like fifty shades of gray or yellow? This is very common. As we age, our enamel thins and teeth darken. In addition, eating, drinking and, in particular, smoking, create a layer of film on the teeth that causes a yellowish tint. Regular brushing and dental visits help, but sometimes they are just not enough.
Teeth whitening can help. But it’s important to remember that if you’re not taking good care of your teeth, it’s unlikely that any kind of whitening will significantly improve stains caused by not brushing your teeth. So start out with good dental habits and healthy teeth and gums before you try to bring back the perfect shade.
Whitening toothpastes can help remove surface stains, but they do not contain bleach and can only lighten by about one shade.
The Phillips Sonicare DiamondClean toothbrush is an innovative product that has been clinically proven to remove up to four times more plaque than a manual toothbrush in four weeks, improve gum health in two weeks and whiten teeth in as little as one week.
Whitening rinses, such as Listerine Whitening, help freshen breath and reduce dental plaque, as well as containing hydrogen peroxide to help whiten teeth. These need to be swished around in the mouth every day, and it may take up to 12 weeks to see results.
There are other over-the-counter methods to make your teeth lighter and brighter. Whitening gels are clear, peroxide-based gels that you apply with a small brush directly to the surface of your teeth, usually twice a day for about two weeks. Or, you can use whitening strips, such as Crest Whitestrips, which are coated with whitening gel and applied twice a day for 30 minutes for about two weeks. Both types of products create whiter teeth for about four months.
Home Bleaching with Tray-Based Systems
Tray-based tooth whitening systems can be purchased over-the-counter or through your dentist’s office.
At Enlighten Dental Care, we use the custom tray system. We make an impression of the patient’s mouth in order to create a mouth guard-like whitening tray. The tray is filled with a gel whitening solution containing a peroxide-bleaching agent. The trays must be worn for half an hour to an hour every day for seven to 10 days on average — possibly longer — depending on how much discoloration there is. Often, people wear the trays overnight while they are sleeping.
With trays purchased over the counter, you put them in hot water to mold to your mouth.
These systems cost approximately $50 if you buy them over the counter and a few hundred if you purchase them through a dentist’s office.
Whitening in the Dentist’s Office
The quickest method for whitening teeth is in-office bleaching. The whitening product — which is highly concentrated and very different from the products you buy over the counter — is applied directly to the teeth. The patient’s gums have to be protected from this material, and it may be used in combination with heat, a special light and/or a laser. These professionally applied tooth whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide in concentrations ranging from 15 percent to 43 percent compared to the over-the-counter methods, which may contain hydrogen peroxide in concentrations ranging from 10 percent to 22 percent.
In-office bleaching takes 90 minutes, and results are immediate. However, several appointments may be needed to achieve the level of whiteness desired. For example, if the teeth are stained blue-gray from use of the antibiotic tetracycline, this kind of staining is more difficult to lighten.
At Enlighten Dental, we use Zoom!® teeth whitening, which costs about $600. The benefits of doing in-office bleaching or home supervised by a dentist are as follows:
- The dentist can perform a complete oral exam and take a medical history to determine if bleaching is the correct course of treatment based on the type and extent of stains
- The concentrations of peroxide are higher; therefore, the treatment is faster
- Side effects, such as tooth sensitivity, can be monitored, and minimized with other aids beforehand.
- In-office procedures use a protective gel or shield to protect gums and oral cavities from the effects of bleaching.
Enlighten Dental is giving away a custom Take-Home Bleaching System valued at $300! Go to our Facebook page and like it to enter! Then enter the contest by Clicking Here! contest runs until December 15, 2012.