Teeth whitening, also known as dental bleaching, is a minimally invasive cosmetic dental treatment that aims to eliminate dental stains and help teeth acquire a whiter and brighter look.
Nowadays, the public demand for dental aesthetics has made this procedure one of the most requested and typical in the dental office.
A teeth whitening procedure should always be performed or supervised by a dentist since the patient must be evaluated by him/her to avoid risks. It is especially important to visit a trained dentist with experience handling whitening agents, who will follow a correct diagnosis protocol, treatment plan, and maintenance of results. This treatment should be considered as a medical process, therefore the dental professional is the one who should carry out the procedure.
When is Teeth Whitening Required ?
Your smile is the first thing a person will notice when you meet. If you have discolored teeth, teeth whitening may be an excellent option for you. Among the leading causes of tooth discoloration, we have:
- When the teeth darken due to aging
- The genetic factors that may cause teeth to darken
- Teeth with stains caused by the intake of foods with many pigments (tea, coffee, wine, etc.)
- Teeth stained by smoking, Nicotine leaves a series of deposits on the teeth, which causes them to darken.
- Dental fluorosis (Stains caused by the excess of fluoride in the dental structure)
- Darkened teeth due to incorrect root canal treatment
- Dentinogenesis imperfecta (genetic alteration in the development of teeth, which produces changes in the structure and color of teeth)
In Office Teeth Whitening
Professional In-office teeth whitening has become one of the most frequently requested dental procedures by the public today. Unlike at-home whitening systems that contain low-doses of bleaching agents, in-office teeth whitening is performed under carefully monitored conditions using a high concentration of bleaching gel, which delivers optimum results in a relatively short time.
In-office teeth whitening can improve your smile’s color up to 8 shades lighter.
In-Office Teeth Whitening Procedure
In-office teeth whitening is a non-invasive procedure; the dental professional won’t use local anesthesia. This procedure is usually completed in one appointment, but this will depend on the severity of the patient’s case.
Step 1: Cleaning the dental surface
- The dental professional may use a desensitizing agent 1 hour to 30 minutes before the procedure.
- The dentist will record the current shade of your teeth.
- Your teeth will be polished to remove any food remains or biofilm.
- The dentist will isolate your mouth with cotton rolls. He will also use oral retractors to maintain your tongue, cheeks, and lips away from the whitening gel.
Step 2: Whitening procedure
- A gum barrier will be placed along the gum line to protect gum tissue from contact with the whitening gel.
- The dentist will apply the whitening gel to the front surface of your teeth
- The gel will be left on the teeth for 30-60 minutes or reapplied; occasionally; this will depend on the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Once the dentist obtains the ideal shade, a desensitizer may be applied to diminish teeth sensitivity.
- For better results, your dentist may also give you an in-home teeth whitening kit for whitening even the most intransigent stains and for maintaining the new shade.
Advantages of In-Office Teeth Whitening
- It is the safest whitening method
- Improves aesthetics, a whiter smile draws more attention and manages to stand out in all kinds of social situations.
- Fast procedure (60 minutes) compared to other whitening systems
- Your dentist may use desensitizer agents to control gum and tooth sensitivity
- Long-lasting results
- Painless and effective treatment.
At-Home Teeth Whitening
There is a wide range of At-home whitening options available.
It is essential to highlight that dental supervision can prevent any problem. To ensure the health of your smile, see your dentist before choosing any product or method.
At-Home Teeth Whitening Methods/ Products
Custom whitening trays
The dental professional will dispense the custom-made whitening trays. This treatment takes several visits but offers excellent esthetic results. At-home teeth whitening will be guaranteed by your dental professional.
Teeth whitening strips
They work better than whitening toothpaste but do not have the same results as professional whitening trays.
Teeth whitening toothpaste
It offers the least dramatic results and may cause damage to your enamel because of abrasive components like activated charcoal or sodium bicarbonate.
Teeth whitening pens
These products have almost no effect on the process of whitening teeth.
What Is The Most Effective At-Home Teeth Whitening Procedure?
The most effective method is the custom-made whitening trays. This is a secure and safe procedure and it will not cause any harm to the health of your teeth or gums.
The dental professional will choose the right at-home whitening agent to assure you have a high-quality treatment.
Custom Whitening Trays Procedure
Step 1: Diagnosis and treatment planning
- The dentist will estimate if the treatment will be useful in your case.
- He/she will take dental impressions of your oral cavity.
Step 2: Whitening trays procedure
- The dentist will give you a take-home kit that will contain the custom-made trays, bleaching agent, and syringes for direct application at home.
- You must use the whitening trays for the time indicated by your dentist.
- After 15 days, you must go to the dental office for a follow-up appointment. The dentist will verify that you are applying the adequate amount of bleaching agent and that the treatment has a good outcome. In this appointment, the dentist will provide a second take-home kit.
- After 15 days, you will go to the last follow-up appointment for the dentist to check that everything is normal, and the results are positive.
Advantages Of At-Home Teeth Whitening
- Long-term results
- Variety of products
- Cost and convenience
- You can use trays or strips anywhere, and they’ll go unnoticed.
The three first days after the whitening process are essential to achieve a better result, and that is why in those 72 hours, you must take special care:
- Maintain a “white diet,” avoid dark drinks and foods that may stain the teeth.
- Avoid smoking
- Avoid colored toothpaste
- Avoid very hot or cold foods
- Maintain excellent and constant oral hygiene
- If your teeth are too sensitive, the dental professional may prescribe oral analgesics or place a desensitization agent in your teeth.
Post-Treatment Care For Teeth Whitening
- Avoid drinking tea, coffee, wine, or food with dyes.
- You should avoid tobacco. People who smoke are much more likely to have their teeth stained.
- Brush your teeth after every meal
- It is not advisable to use whitening toothpaste more than twice a week, as they can damage tooth enamel.
- Visit the dentist for regular check-ups at least every six months.
DO’S AND DONT’S for Teeth Whitening
- Do brush your teeth and practice good oral hygiene before and after the whitening procedure
- Do visit the dental professional to have teeth whitening done.
- Do prepare your treatment in advance if you have a big event like a wedding or birthday party.
- Do tell the dental professional the habits you usually have and the foods and drinks you consume.
- Do not consume foods that can cause stains in your teeth like wine, soda, tea, coffee, etc.
- Don’t consume acidic foods
- Do not store teeth whitening products in hot temperatures
- Do not smoke
Myths About Teeth Whitening Treatment
Myth #1: Whitening toothpaste is the best option
Toothpaste that claims to whiten your teeth can serve as a support after a professional whitening, but they don’t whiten your teeth in a very noticeable way.
Whitening toothpaste has a minimal amount of active tooth whitening agents. Also, most of these are abrasive. They can remove external stains and give the impression of whiter teeth.
Myth #2: Sodium bicarbonate whitens your teeth
It is common to hear in home-made beauty tips that baking soda is an excellent teeth whitening agent.
Sodium bicarbonate should not be used on the dental surface because it is a very abrasive material. It provides a certain whitening effect by wearing down the surface of the tooth’s enamel. Sodium bicarbonate does not remove internal pigmentation, and it usually causes pain and sensitivity.
Myth #3: Teeth whitening causes tooth sensitivity
Truth. Some patients’ teeth become sensitive during or after treatment. Sometimes Peroxide’s penetration into the pulp tissue (nerve) may cause inflammation.
Teeth can also become dehydrated due to exposure to high temperatures for an extended period.
Myth #4: Teeth whitening damages or weakens the enamel.
False. Bleaching consists of a chemical reaction. The gel works to lighten the pigment that darkens the teeth. This process is not abrasive and does not affect the dental structure, especially enamel.
It is very common for patients to ask this question before starting the procedure. It is true that whitening without professional supervision, a correct diagnosis, and treatment plan can cause damage to the dental structure, causing the tooth to weaken and wear. That is why it is important to visit the dental professional for an evaluation appointment, follow the instructions, and attend the follow-up appointments.
Myth #5: At-home teeth whitening does not work.
False. All types of whitening procedures follow the same principle: A gel (Hydrogen Peroxide or Carbamide Peroxide) in different concentrations, which is the substance that causes the whitening in teeth.
Myth #6: Teeth whitening lasts a lifetime
Teeth whitening does not last forever, but it will depend on the patient’s habits and compliance with the dentist’s instructions. Patients who smoke, drink tea, soda, coffee, and wine regularly will have a shorter treatment duration compared to those who don’t have these habits. Good oral hygiene also influences after performing the treatment.
Myth #7: Teeth whitening with laser technology is harmful
False. It is essential to clarify that the laser technology itself is not harmful but its use is delicate and must be only performed by the dentist. Since laser emits light and heat, it can irritate the dental pulp. This is the reason why the diagnosis is crucial because not all patients are suitable for this type of whitening.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are our teeth whitening procedures painful?
Teeth whitening procedures are not painful, but they may cause sensitivity in the treated teeth, a sensation that disappears within 72 hours after treatment.
2. Are our teeth whitening treatments effective on all types of dental stains?
No. The patient obtains the best results on teeth that, over the years, have turned yellow or darkened in a natural tone. In more intense stains (orange or grey), the teeth may be lightened, but the dental specialist is the one who will evaluate this because good results are hardly achieved in the most severe cases.
The dentist will not be able to whiten stains caused by tetracycline. In those cases, other options should be used, such as ceramic veneers, composite veneers, or crowns.
Also, the tooth whitening results last for at least 1 to 2 years. It will depend mainly on two fundamental factors: The techniques and products used by the dentist and the patient’s compliance.
3. When is teeth whitening procedure contraindicated?
- Patients with a bad periodontal condition
- When the teeth have resin composite fillings or porcelain in visible areas. (Resin composite will not whiten)
- Root exposure
- Severe dental hypersensitivity
- Tooth decay, cracks or fissures, significant loss of enamel, etc.
- Patients under 18 years.
- Pregnant or lactating women
- Patients that are allergic to peroxides, because the teeth whitening product may cause an allergic reaction.
4. Are the teeth whitening products that I buy in the supermarket as effective as professional whitening?
Chewing gums, toothpaste, strips, or rinses that contain whitening ingredients have a concentration of close to 1% of Carbamide Peroxide. They, therefore, are not sufficiently effective to provide results similar to those achieved in the dental clinic.