In-Office Teeth Whitening and At-Home Bleaching

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Teeth whitening — enhancing one's smile through teeth bleaching, tooth whitening products, laser tooth whitening, and other cosmetic dentistry procedures — is a billion-dollar industry because people recognize how important a role an attractive smile can play in personal and professional relationships. Cosmetic dentistry has applied recent technological advances to tooth whitening procedures that can now brighten one's smile by up to 15 shades, and these procedures, while not covered by most health insurance policies, are more affordable than ever.

Teeth Whitening Overview

Teeth whitening is a procedure that's intended to eliminate or significantly reduce the effects that coffee, cigarettes and other stain-forming agents can have on a person's teeth. Teeth bleaching is the most popular and recognized treatment, a treatment that some cosmetic dentists expedite through the use of a high-intensity light.

In the teeth bleaching procedure, a cosmetic dentist will clean the client's teeth with pumice before placing a protective barrier over the gums. Once the barrier is in place, the dentist will apply a hydrogen peroxide gel to the client's teeth, letting it soak in before rinsing it off and repeating the process several times. Most cosmetic dentists use gels that are 15 to 35 percent hydrogen peroxide, a much stronger dose than is available in standard over-the-counter tooth whitening products. Over the course of a single 40-minute session, a cosmetic dentist can lighten a client's teeth by up to 6 shades. Some cosmetic dentists, as noted earlier, also apply a high-intensity light once the gel has been spread over a client's teeth to speed up the bleaching process.

In office teeth whitening costs more than at-home, do it yourself whitening, though results are often considered better. Porcelain veneers may serve as an alternative option if you also have issues with chips, cracks, or otherwise misshapen teeth, though the cost of veneers per tooth far exceeds that of whitening. Tooth whitening is one of the more affordable cosmetic dentistry treatments, especially when compared to the high cost of mini dental implants, orthodontics, dentures and the cost of dental bridges.

Laser Tooth Whitening

In the laser dentistry procedure known as laser tooth whitening, a cosmetic dentist applies a gel to a client's teeth and directs a laser on the teeth to activate the hydrogen peroxide in the gel and penetrate the surface of the teeth. This laser teeth whitening procedure can brighten a client's smile by up to 8 shades in one session.

While some clients require a series of in-office treatments, others can achieve whiter teeth through an at-home system of teeth bleaching. The cosmetic dentist molds a mouth tray, similar to the mouth guard worn by athletes, that mirrors the contours of the client's teeth. By creating these soft, custom-made mouth trays, the dentist can help ensure a uniform application of the whitening solution. Together with the tray, the dentist provides the client with a teeth-whitening gel that can be safely used at home. The client applies the gel to the mouth tray and wears the mouth tray each day for a specific, dentist-determined length of time, ranging from 20 minutes to overnight. 

Teeth whitening through the use of in-office treatments and hydrogen peroxide gels is considered both safe and effective. While the more highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide gels used during the in-office treatment can weaken the enamel on a client's teeth, a cosmetic dentist can also prescribe fluoride gels to lessen such risk. Other risks include tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. Tooth sensitivity can be offset through prescription fluoride, while gum irritation can be soothed with over-the-counter oral analgesics.

It's important to note that cosmetic dentistry procedures only target the client's teeth. If a flawed smile is the result of lip imperfections or other facial quirks, the smile can't be corrected with cosmetic dentistry. Clients should discuss their goals and desired results with a qualified, board-certified cosmetic dentist before undergoing any cosmetic dentistry procedure. If whiter teeth are the primary goal, though, a qualified cosmetic dentist should be able to help a client achieve that goal.

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