Teeth Whitening

Cosmetic tooth whitening

The cosmetic teeth whitening procedure has a universal appeal, since just about everyone wants white teeth. Drinking coffee, tea or wine regularly, or smoking cigarettes, can lead to yellow stains on the teeth that are difficult to remove. Tooth enamel wears down over time, becoming more transparent and revealing the yellow-colored dentin, so even avoiding items that cause stains won't save you from yellow teeth. Tooth whitening is the only option for those seeking to restore a white and bright smile.

Cost of Teeth Whitening

The price of laser whitening or professional teeth bleaching ranges from $300 to $2,000. Professional tooth whitening kits cost from $100 to $400, and over-the-counter tooth whiteners range from $20 to $100. The costs associated with bleaching teeth are coming down rapidly, as cosmetic dentistry technologies improve and become more accessible.

Patient Evaluation

The effectiveness of whitening teeth varies according to the patient's original tooth color. At a dental office, a guide is used determine the most natural shade of white for your teeth. The patient needs to have realistic expectations for the process; a change of two to seven shades is possible in most cases.

Pregnant and nursing mothers shouldn't have their teeth whitened, because accidentally swallowed bleach may impact the health of the unborn child. Those with sensitive teeth or gums often find that laser tooth whitening is far more comfortable.

The Teeth Whitening Procedure

Both bleaching and laser treatments, as performed in a dental office, offer fast, uniform results. Here's a closer look at the two most common techniques:

Professional teeth whitening: The gums are protected with a painted-on rubber dam; then, closely controlled amounts of high-concentration peroxide gel are applied to the teeth. The gel is left on for 20 minute intervals adding up to a full hour. Repeated sessions may be required for those with more stubborn stains, or the dentist may suggest you supplement treatment with a home whitening kit.

Laser teeth whitening: First, the teeth are quickly cleaned to remove any plaque, particularly around the gum line. A peroxide-based gel is then added to the teeth. Laser light is then used to activate the gel, with the entire process taking about an hour. In cases involving extremely deep stains, the process may need to be repeated.

Risks of Professional Tooth Whitening

Tooth whitening procedures don't have many risks. However, some of the possible consequences include:

  • Increased tooth sensitivity. This is usually temporary, and it's more common with bleaching techniques as opposed to laser techniques.
  • Irritation of the gums. Up to 50 percent of patients that use peroxide whiteners may experience slight to moderate gum irritation for several days following the procedure.
  • Mismatched teeth. Porcelain veneers and dental crowns are not affected by bleach and will maintain their color as the teeth around them are whitened.

Recovering from the Procedure

While some patients may experience increased tooth sensitivity along with gum irritation, there are generally few physical symptoms that result from tooth whitening. It's recommended to avoid dark-colored foods and beverages for at least a week, and you should continue to practice sound oral hygiene habits. The final results of the whitening process may take two weeks to become visible.

Alternative Procedures

Over-the-counter whitening products saturate the market, from toothpastes that promise whiter smiles to whitening strips and gels. Many of these products offer some degree of effectiveness, but it often takes much longer for results to show, and they may not whiten the entire smile in a uniform manner. A professional treatment is best if you're looking for immediate results.