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Teeth Bleaching FAQ

Teeth Whitening Choices

Teeth Whitening Gel - Nite White - Day White - Opalescence  

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 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 in most instances it may take more than one session to achieve the desired level of bleaching. Research has shown that the contribution of the light itself to the bleaching process is minimal and is more of a marketing hook.

The most publicized chair side whitening procedures:

Other less well known, dentist supervised chair side bleaching systems include:

  • Opalescence Extra Boost
  • Rembrandt Sapphire System
  • LumaArch
  • Lasersmile

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 don't 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. 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 whitening results.

There are also tray-less over-the-counter options available for tooth whitening. Some are the Crest Tooth Whitening Strips, Colgate Simply White, Britesmile Whitening Pen, Supersmile Whitening Accelerator Systems, etc. Crest whitening strips maybe a better option for those who don't 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 $300 - $600 per session and usually requires more than one session for maximum results. Take-home bleaching kits average around $100 - $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 by dentists to be less effective. 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: Dr. Collins All White Toothpaste) and most of the over-the-counter "Whitening Toothpastes" on a daily basis.

Teeth Whitening Instructions
Pre-Bleaching Instructions