Patients often ask us about the how they can achieve a whiter smile. Bleaching is by far the simplest and most cost effective cosmetic procedure we do. Whiter teeth can make you appear younger and healthier.
There are two basic ways to make teeth appear whiter: removing surface stains from the outer layer of teeth and bleaching the teeth. Surface stains from coffee, wine, or tobacco can discolor the enamel, the outer layer of the tooth. These stains can be polished off during a dental cleaning. This is how whitening toothpastes work. They scrub off the stains, but they don’t change the color of the teeth.
Bleaching goes one layer deeper. Bleaching changes both the color of the enamel and dentin, which is the layer of the tooth underneath the enamel. Because the enamel is translucent, whitening the dentin makes the teeth appear whiter.
There are several ways that your dentist can bleach your teeth. The most common method is the “home tray method.” The dentist makes a mold of your teeth and uses it to make custom trays. These trays look similar to a mouthguard. The dentist sends the patient home with these trays and a supply of bleach. The patient puts the bleach in the trays and wears them for several hours or overnight. Every time the patient wears the trays, the teeth get a little whiter. The patient stops bleaching when he or she is satisfied with the color of the teeth. Follow up bleaching once or twice a month helps maintain the whiter color.
Another option we offer is in-office bleaching. While the patient is in our office, we apply a bleach that is activated by light. The teeth whiten significantly in just one hour. Many patients choose this method because they want quick results. The disadvantage is that the faster process may lead to increased sensitivity.
Patients can choose to start with the one-hour bleaching and then follow up with tray bleaching. This combination usually gives us the best results in the least amount of time.
The main side effect of bleaching is temporary sensitivity. Though some people are not affected at all, patients who start with cold sensitivity are more likely to have sensitivity problems. For these patients, we recommend a special anti-sensitivity gel that makes the procedure as comfortable as possible. We can also prescribe a lower strength bleach that may reduce discomfort.
You may have seen over-the-counter bleaching products and wondered how well they work. These products can make your teeth whiter. However, they are not made to fit to your teeth. As a result, they sometimes miss parts of the teeth, and the teeth may end up looking blotchy.
If you have been considering whitening your teeth, make an appointment at Kaufman Dentistry to discuss the different options that are available to you.