Tooth Whitening – What is It?
Tooth whitening is a procedure that lightens teeth and helps to remove stains and discoloration. Whitening is among the most popular cosmetic dental procedures because it can significantly improve the appearance of your teeth at much less cost and inconvenience than other techniques.
Every day, a thin coating forms on your teeth and it picks up stains. Also, the outer layer of each tooth, called the enamel, contains pores that can hold stains. Whitening is not a one-time solution. It will need to be repeated periodically if you want to maintain the brighter color.
Whitening does not work on crowns or veneers.
The most common reasons for yellowing or stained teeth are aging, tobacco, tea and coffee, which can stain the surface of the teeth.
Tooth whitening is most effective on surface stains caused by age, foods or drinks.
There are two main types of whitening procedures. When whitening is done on a tooth that has had root canal treatment and no longer has a live nerve, the process is called non-vital whitening. Vital whitening means that the procedure is being done on teeth that have live nerves.
Vital whitening may not improve the appearance of a tooth that has had root-canal treatment. If this is the case, we will use a different procedure that whitens the tooth from the inside. We will place a whitening agent inside the tooth and will place a temporary filling. It will be left this way for several days. You may need this done only once, or it can be repeated until the tooth reaches the desired shade.
The most common type of vital tooth whitening involves placing a gel-like whitening solution, which usually contains hydrogen or carbamide peroxides, in a tray. The tray is then placed over the teeth for a certain period of time — anywhere from an hour to overnight.
When the examination is complete, we will clean your teeth. Once this is completed, the whitening procedure begins.
Tooth whitening can be done in the dentist’s office or at home. In-office whitening (also called chairside whitening) has the advantage of allowing your dentist to supervise the process and your progress more closely.
In-office whitening usually takes between 30 and 90 minutes and can require up to three appointments with us. The number of visits required will depend on the type of discoloration and how white you want your teeth to be.
For in-home whitening, we will take impressions of your teeth and will make one or two custom mouthpieces to fit you, depending on if you are having both upper and lower teeth whitened. It is important that the mouthpiece fit well so that the whitening agent remains in contact with your teeth and doesn’t irritate your gums. Over-the-counter mouthpieces are unlikely to fit correctly and can cause gum irritation if the whitening agent seeps out.
At home, you will fill each mouthpiece with a whitening gel your dentist provides, and wear the mouthpiece for several hours every day. Many people achieve the amount of whitening they want within a week or two, but you may need to wear the mouthpiece for four weeks or longer.
We will want to see you a few days after in-office whitening to check your gums. If your gums were exposed to the whitening agent, they can become irritated. If you are whitening your teeth at home, we will want to check to make sure the process is working properly, usually after a week.
Whitening is not a permanent solution. The stains will come back. People who expose their teeth to a lot of staining may see the whiteness start to fade in as little as one month. Those who avoid staining foods and drinks may be able to wait six to 12 months before another whitening treatment is needed.
Re-whitening can be done in the dentist’s office or at home. If you have a custom-made mouthpiece and whitening agent at home, you can whiten your teeth as frequently as you want to. You should discuss your whitening schedule with us, and talk about what whitening products would work best for you.