Teeth whitening can occasionally lighten tooth color by nine or more shades, although most of those who bleach their teeth are likely to see a change of two to seven shades. We have two major classes of teeth whitening; in-office and at-home whitening.
In-office bleaching provides the quickest way to whiten teeth. With in-office bleaching, the whitening product is applied directly to the teeth. These products can be used in combination with heat, a special light, or a laser. Results are seen in only one, 30- to 60-minute treatment. But to achieve dramatic results, several appointments are usually needed.
However, with in-office bleaching, dramatic results can be seen after the first treatment.
Get a professional cleaning and mouth exam first, even if you decide to whiten your teeth at home. In case your stains are primarily caused by plaque and tartar, you might need only a thorough cleaning to restore your smile’s sparkle.
Your dentist will also look for cavities and check the health of your gums during the exam. Treating any problems before you whiten is safer for your mouth.
Ask your dentist about which over-the-counter system to use and how much lightening you can expect. Teeth do darken with age, and the amount of color change varies from person to person.
At home vs. dentist-supervised
Do-it-yourself methods aren’t the same as getting your teeth whitened by a professional. You’ll want to consider a few important differences between these teeth whitening options.
Strength of bleaching agent: Over-the-counter products and dentist-supervised at-home products usually contain a lower strength bleaching agent, with about a 10% to 22% carbamide peroxide content, which is equivalent to about 3% hydrogen peroxide. In-office, professionally applied tooth whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide in concentrations ranging from 15% to 43%.
Mouthpiece trays: With dentist-supervised at-home bleaching products, your dentist will take an impression of your teeth and make a mouthpiece tray that is customized to exactly fit your teeth. This customization allows for maximum contact between the whitening gel, which is applied to the mouthpiece tray, and the teeth. A custom-made tray also minimizes the gel’s contact with gum tissue.
Over-the-counter whitening products also contain a mouthpiece tray, but the “one-size-fits-all” approach means that the fit will not be exact. Ill-fitting trays can irritate the gum and soft tissue by allowing more bleaching gel to seep onto these tissues. With in-office procedures, you’ll get the bleaching agent applied directly to your teeth.
Additional protective measures: In the office setting, your dentist will apply either a gel to the gum tissue or use a rubber shield (which slides over the teeth) prior to treatment to protect your gums and oral cavities from the effects of the bleaching. Over-the-counter products don’t provide these extra protective measures.
Costs: Over-the-counter bleaching systems are the least expensive option.
Supervised vs. unsupervised process: First, your dentist can perform an oral exam and consider your complete medical history, which can be helpful in determining if bleaching is an appropriate course of treatment based on the type and extent of stains, and the number and location of restorations. Your dentist can then better match the type of stain with the best treatment, if appropriate, to lighten those stains.
When your dentist does it, they’ll likely want to see you a couple of times to clear up any questions about the directions, to make sure the customized tray fits properly, to check your gums for signs of irritation, and to generally see how the process is working. With over-the-counter bleaching products, you’re on your own.
We highly recommend you have your teeth whitened by a professional. Safe and effective teeth whitening is possible when done in the proper fashion. Would you like to consult House of Dentistry? We are always ready to be of service.