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Cosmetic Dentistry

Teeth Whitening Facts

Is your wedding approaching and you want your smile to be its brightest? Or maybe you have an important speaking engagement? Whatever the reason, tooth whitening isn’t just for the movie stars, and it isn’t just for one day. Many people have their teeth whitened, and probably millions more are thinking about it. The desire for a brighter smile with whiter teeth is very strong, and teeth whitening safely lightens the color of the teeth, lasting for up to five years.

Is whitening for you?

Generally, whitening is successful in at least 90 percent of patients, though it may not be an option for everyone. Consider tooth whitening if your teeth are darkened from age, coffee, tea or smoking. If you have very sensitive teeth, periodontal disease, or teeth with worn enamel, whitening may be discouraged until these other problems are resolved.

What’s involved?

First, an examination will determine whether you are a candidate for teeth whitening and what type of whitening system will provide the best results.

If you’re in a hurry for whiter teeth, you may decide to have your teeth lightened immediately. Your dentist will use either an in-office whitening system or laser whitening while you sit in the dental chair. Many patients alternativelychoose dentist-supervised at-home whitening, which is more economical and can provide similar results.

At the next appointment (if you don’t choose laser whitening) impressions will be made of your teeth to fabricate a mouthguard appliance for you. The mouthguard is custom made for your mouth and is lightweight so that it can be worn comfortably while you are awake or sleeping. The mouthguard is so thin that you should even be able to talk and work while wearing your mouthguard. Along with the mouthguard, you’ll receive the whitening materials and you’ll be given instructions on how to wear the mouthguard.

Some systems recommend whitening your teeth from two to four hours a day. Generally this type of system requires three to six weeks to complete, and works best on patients with sensitive teeth. Other systems recommend whitening at night while you sleep. This type of system usually requires only 10-14 days to complete.

How long does it last?

Whitening should last from one to five years, depending on your personal habits such as smoking and drinking coffee and tea. At this point you may choose to get a touch up. This procedure may not be as costly because you can probably still use the same mouthguard. The retreatment time also is much shorter than the original treatment time.

How does it work?

The active ingredient in most of the whitening agents is 10 percent carbamide peroxide (CH4N2O2), also known as urea peroxide; when water contacts this white crystal, the release of hydrogen peroxide lightens the teeth.

Is it safe? Any side effects?

Several studies have proven whitening to be safe and effective, and the American Dental Association has granted its seal of approval to several popular teeth whitening products. Some patients may experience slight gum irritation or tooth sensitivity, which will resolve when the treatment ends.

What are realistic expectations?

No one can really predict how much lighter your teeth will become. Every case is different, but typically there is a two-shade improvement as seen on a shade guide. The success rate depends upon the type of stain involved and your adherence to the prescribed regimen. Whitening does not lighten artificial materials such as resins, silicants, or porcelains.

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