1. What tooth whitening choices are there
if I am interested in whitening my teeth?
There are a number of different ways to whiten teeth. There are
two main choices. One is professional bleaching which requires visiting
a dentist and the second is over the counter whitening i.e. buying
it from a retail store or through the internet.
Different ways to bleach teeth:
Chair-side bleaching, which involves getting your teeth
bleached in usually a single dental visit at a dentist or a
much publicized whitening center like
There are 2 kinds of At-home-tray whitening systems.
Chair-side bleaching can be done in two ways. The dentist
uses a very strong bleaching agent alone or in combination with
a light/laser. With both, the dentist cleans your teeth with a sandy,
pumice-like material to remove plaque and cleans the surface of
the tooth. Then a peroxide-based gel is applied after which a light
may be applied to assist the whitening process. Most gels are self-activating
and others are activated and by the use of a light. The laser does
NOT whiten teeth. It merely activates the bleaching gel and initiates
the chemical reaction that produces the whitening effect (the laser
doesn't actually penetrate the teeth). The procedure takes about
an hour and a half and offers immediate results, although it may
take more than one session to achieve the desired level of bleaching.
The most publicized chair side whitening procedures:
Other less well know chair side Bleaching systems include:
Opalescence Extra Boost
Rembrandt Sapphire System
The at-home bleaching tray methods require a fitted mouth
tray (bleaching tray) to hold the bleaching gel against the tooth
either overnight or hourly depending on the strength of the bleach
dispensed. In the past, this bleaching tray was fabricated only
by a dentist. Today, these custom trays can also be ordered via
the internet. You take the mold of your teeth and mail the molds
to a dental lab who fabricates the trays and mails them back to
you. The turn-around time is approx. 2-3 weeks. Alternatively, the
boil n bite trays bypass having to wait for them to be mailed but
are more bulky and donít fit as well. You mold the trays against
your teeth yourself after placing the thermoform trays in boiling
water for a few minutes to soften it. Dentist.net recommends you visit
your dentist before whitening to make sure that you don't have any
cavities or any other limitations that would compromise your tooth
There are also tray-less over-the-counter options available
for tooth whitening. These are the Crest Tooth Whitening Strips,
Colgate Simply White, Britesmile whitening pen etc. Crest whitening
strips maybe a better option for those who donít want to wear a
tray. These strips are more difficult to keep in place especially
on the lower teeth while the paint on whitening needs be kept dryish
to adhere and prevent wash-out.
No matter which method you choose, how white your teeth will get depends
on what color they are to begin with and the source of the discoloration.
Brown or yellow teeth (often the result of superficial staining
caused by smoking, coffee, and tea) will usually get whiter. Gray
teeth (caused not by stains but by pigment deep inside the tooth)
will lighten less, sometimes not at all. Results cannot be guaranteed.
To determine the initial color of your teeth, compare them to a
sheet of bright white computer paper held up to your mouth.
Chairside bleaching is the fastest but also the most expensive,
anywhere from $4-$600 per session and usually requires more than
one session for maximum results. Take-home bleaching kits average
around $300 from the dentist, less costly online and can be used
with your own schedule. Over-the-counter options, as you might expect,
are the least expensive, but are thought per dentists to be less
effective. Recent research has shown white strips to be as effective.
The most common side effect of any of these procedures is sensitivity
to hot and cold, but that lasts only while you are using the bleach
and tends to persist for 1-2 days afterwards.
If there's little chance that you'll remember to pop in
a mouth tray every night, or if you are impatient to see results,
chair side bleaching may be a better option for you. This method
also allows the dentist to treat teeth individually, which is ideal
if you have veneers or teeth that vary in shade.
With proper aftercare, whitened teeth can stay bright
for a few years. To keep your smile bright as long as possible,
try these easy tips:
Follow the "white teeth diet" Drink white wine instead
of red wine, cappuccino instead of espresso, and grapefruit
juice instead of cranberry juice.
Use "whitening" toothpaste with a mild abrasive or
peroxides (for example: Opalescence toothpaste, Supersmile ,
ZOOM Whitening Toothpaste and most of the over-the-counter "Whitening
Toothpastes" on a daily basis.
To our knowledge nothing detrimental has been documented and
microscopic research shows no changes to the tooth surface with
use of 10% bleaching solution. Most research available was initially
done with a 10% concentration. There is no literature that we have
come across showing any structural changes or irreversible damage
to the tooth structure whatsoever.
All bleaching gel causes some degree of tooth sensitivity. This
is sensitivity to cold/hot fluids and even air can cause discomfort.
This is normal and an expected side effect. Some of the brands of
bleaching gel contain desensitizing agents which claim to alleviate
post bleaching sensitivity. From customer feedback, this doesnít
seem to be noticeably effective. All bleaching causes tooth sensitivity
and we recommend to either discontinue use for a few days and the
sensitivity will dissipate within 24-48 hrs. Donít be concerned
as bleaching does not need to be done consecutively. You will get
to the same whitening point, it will just take a little longer.
A better alternative option is to use
Dr. Collins Desensitizing Gel
which is applied after bleaching in the same manner as the bleach.
For maximum benefit use the
Dr. Collins Desensitizing Gel
or UltraEZ overnight.Using a desensitizing toothpaste like
Sensodyne or any of the over the counter toothpastes containing
potassium nitrate as the active ingredient will help.
5. How long will it take for teeth to become
Results vary. Some teeth whiten dramatically in just a few days,
while others can take a few months. The majority of people whiten
within 2-3 weeks. The more yellow versus gray color you have
in your teeth, the better the bleaching. Grey enamel similar to
that of Tetracycline (antibiotic) staining is more difficult to
bleach and can take a few months to achieve a result.
Generally, immediately after bleaching, the color will fade slightly
and then remain stable for approx. 6 months to a year, sometimes
longer. It is recommended for maintenance to touch up your smile
every 4-6 months with 1-2 applications.
8. Will bleaching gel whiten my veneers, caps
(crowns) and bonding?
All bleaching agents used to whiten teeth will only work on natural
tooth structure. This means that all dental work including but not
limited to bonding, veneers, crowns (caps) and bridges will NOT
bleach or whiten. All dental work would need to be replaced to match
the newly whitened teeth.
9. What brand of bleaching system/gel does
There is no objective research at the present time comparing
the different tooth whitening systems or the effectiveness of various
bleaching gels currently available. They all work, some bleaching
gels just gets you there quicker. They will all eventually get you
to the same bleaching plateau (maximum whitening). Results vary,
some teeth whiten very well as others show minimal changes no matter
what product is used. We recommend to stay with a brand or strength
that has worked for you and to maybe try another brand or strength
if you are unhappy with your current bleaching results. Ultimately
the choice of bleach agent is really a personal one.