Teeth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dentistry procedures today, and that is for one very simple reason: your smile is among the first things people notice about you.
If your pearly whites aren’t as “white” as they are supposed to, then that might give a little bit of a thumbs down.
If you looking to undergo teeth whitening to bring back that spark in your smile, then might as well learn more about the procedure.
Listed here are some of the most common questions patients have regarding teeth whitening.
What is teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening is a cosmetic dental procedure wherein your dentist restores the natural color of your teeth by removing stains on the enamel and applying a specially-formulated whitening product.
It is different from teeth bleaching, which involves whitening the teeth beyond its normal color through professional application of products that contain peroxides.
Today, “whitening” and “bleaching” are used interchangeably and practically means the same thing for patients.
How is teeth whitening done?
Your dentist will first perform a thorough dental examination to determine if you are suited to undergo teeth whitening. Take note that both teeth whitening and bleaching can only target extrinsic stains.
If the discoloration is caused by intrinsic stains (flurosis, tooth decay, etc), then neither whitening nor bleaching can solve the problem.
Once cleared, your dentist will now present you with two options – to have the whitening done in the clinic or at home with a teeth whitening kit.
In chairside whitening, which is done at the dental clinic, your dentist will first put a rubber shield or use a special gel on your gums to protect it from the whitening agent.
Once the gums are fully-protected, the whitening or bleaching agent – also in gel form – will now be applied on your teeth.
This whitening agent contains either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide and is activated by a special blue light.
For at-home whitening kits your dentist will first take an impression of your upper and lower teeth.
This will help create a replica of your teeth which, in turn, will be used to fabricate custom-made trays that fit perfectly in your mouth. This tray will serve as vehicle for the whitening agent that will be provided by your dentist as part of the kit.
You will be provided with instructions as to how much gel should be used and how often you have to apply it.
How many appointments does chair-side whitening require?
It depends on how discolored your teeth are prior to the treatment, and how much whiter you wish them to be. Typically, it takes at least three appointments to see the difference.
In each appointment, your dentist will monitor the improvements and provide you with further instructions as needed.
How long will the effect of teeth whitening last?
On the average, the whitening effect lasts for up to three years, but it can be shorter or longer depending on your behavior and habits.
Shorter effects are expected in patients who smoke, or those who love to consume heavily-colored food and beverages. Not to mention, poor oral hygiene can also cause your teeth to darken much faster.
Will teeth whitening affect my existing restorations?
Whitening agents have very little or no effect at all to restorative materials. They do, however, affect the bond strength of composite filling to the tooth enamel.
But this effect is only temporary and won’t cause the restoration to fall off. A consultation with your dentist should answer concerns like this before the actual whiting procedure.
Is teeth whitening safe?
Both teeth whitening and bleaching are absolutely safe if done by well-trained licensed dentist. There will be some sensitivity after the procedure, but it is only temporary and should go away after a day or two.
None of the whitening or bleaching agents used should cause damage to tooth structure. With regards to at-home whitening kits, there shouldn’t be any problem as long as you follow your dentist’s instructions thoroughly
How much does teeth whitening cost?
The cost of teeth whitening varies, ranging from a measly $20 to a whopping $1000. Chairside whitening costs $300-800 on the average, while at-home kits are only a bit cheaper at $200-600. And since teeth whitening is done mainly for cosmetic purposes, dental insurance plans don’t cover it.