How We Whiten Your Teeth
Teeth whitening (or bleaching) is a simple, non-invasive dental treatment used to change the color of natural tooth enamel and is an ideal way to enhance the brilliance of your smile. Think it of almost like a washing machine for your teeth.
Through years of eating and drinking staining foods the enamel layer of your teeth will suffer from intrinsic staining. This enamel layer is made up of hydroxyapatite crystals, which form microscopic hexagonal "rods." Simply put, enamel is porous, which means staining agents can work their way down into the tooth, where you can't simply scour them away.
Hydrogen or carbamide peroxide in the whitening solution opens up the enamel microtubules helping these bleaching agents get down into the tooth enamel and set off a chemical reaction (specifically, an oxidation reaction) that breaks apart the staining compounds.
Since teeth whitening only works on natural tooth enamel, it is important to evaluate your teeth for the replacement of any old fillings, crowns, etc. Replacement of any restorations will be done after bleaching so they will match the newly bleached teeth.
There are three main methods of teeth whitening:
Over-the-counter tooth whitening: This also involves the use of carbamide or hydrogen peroxide. It isn't always mentioned in the product instructions, but it's a good idea to get your teeth professionally cleaned, have all your cavities filled, and make sure your gums are healthy before using these products.
The great advantage of these systems is the cost, usually less than $35-$60. The disadvantages unfortunately are numerous. There is no professional advice indicating whether it is a good solution for your case. Some do not indicate the % of active peroxide and the strips will not cover all the surfaces of your teeth and that can lead to unwanted gum irritation.
In office whitening involves the cleaning of your teeth with a gentle pumice slurry, placing precise gingival barriers to protect your gums and using a 30-37% Carbamide peroxide solution that is activated with a special light. The whole process takes about 60-90 minutes. Your teeth instantly will go about 4-6 shades lighter and afterwards we will give you custom trays as well so you can touch up at your leisure at home. We recommend initially you wait two weeks before bleaching again with the trays and after that you may only need to every 1 to 3 years depending on your eating habits. This combination of trays and professional whitening will get your teeth to whiten nearly 12 to 15 shades.
The third option is custom made trays made after taking molds of your teeth. These take home systems will often use 10 to 20 percent carbamide peroxide gels that also contain glycerin, carbomer, sodium hydroxide, water, and flavoring agents. Some gels that contain more than 10 percent carbamide peroxide will also include sodium fluoride to reduce sensitivity and strengthen teeth. To administer the treatment you put a thin ribbon of the gel into the tray and wear it for about 1-2 hours during the day. We no longer recommend you sleep with the trays in because the gels can dry out your teeth increasing sensitivity. Most whitening occurs in one to two weeks. In difficult cases, trays may need to be worn for up to six weeks.
With all of these methods your enamel will not be damaged but important minerals can be leached out and it is important to replace them. For this reason we always will provide a tube of remineralizing gel to be used in conjunction with the whitening treatment.
Your teeth may become sensitive during treatment but rest assured this effect is transient and will go away once you discontinue use of the whitening agents.
Teeth whitening is not permanent. A touch-up may be needed every several years, and more often if you smoke, drink coffee, tea, or wine.
Reasons for teeth whitening:
- Fluorosis (excessive fluoridation during tooth development)
- Stained teeth due to medications (tetracycline, etc.)
- Yellow, brown stained teeth