Tooth whitening (or bleaching) is a simple, non-invasive dental treatment used to change the color of natural tooth enamel and is an ideal way to enhance the beauty of your smile.
Because having whiter teeth has now become the number one aesthetic concern of most patients, there are a number of ways to whiten teeth. The most popular method is using a home tray/gel tooth whitening system that will whiten teeth dramatically. Since tooth whitening only works on natural tooth enamel, it is important to evaluate replacement of any old fillings, crowns, etc. Replacement of any restorations will be done after bleaching so they will match the newly bleached teeth.
Tooth whitening is not permanent. A touch-up maybe needed every year, and more often if you smoke, drink coffee, tea, or wine.
Reasons for tooth whitening:
Fluorosis (excessive fluoridation during tooth development).
Normal wear of outer tooth layer.
Stained teeth due to medications (tetracycline, etc.).
Yellow, brown stained teeth.
What does tooth whitening involve?
This type of tooth whitening usually requires two visits. At the first appointment, impressions (molds) will be made of your teeth to fabricate custom, clear plastic, trays.
At your second appointment, you will try on the trays for proper fit, and adjustments will be made if necessary. The trays are worn with special whitening solution either twice a day for 30 minutes or overnight for a couple of weeks depending on the degree of staining and desired level of whitening. It is normal to experience tooth sensitivity during the time you are whitening your teeth, but it will subside shortly after you have stopped bleaching. Dr. Coates recommends using one of the desensitizing tooth pastes (Ex. Sensodyne® or Crest Sensitivity®) for a few week before whitening and throughout the process.
You will receive care instructions for your teeth and trays, and be encouraged to visit your dentist regularly to help maintain a beautiful, healthy, white smile.
Other types of whitening: over-the-counter strips that you wear twice a day for 2 weeks and have to repeat every 5-6 months due to the much weaker strength; and in-office whitening which takes about 1 1/2 hours and whitens to the level of about 1 week of using the whitening trays.
Dr. Coates' favorite technique is with the Kor Whitening System which is a combination of specially made whitening trays you use with the Kor Whitening Gel for 2-3 weeks and then a Power Whitening with the Kor in-office system to "set" the whitening. For patients with very dark and deep seated discolorations Dr. Coates may recommend that you continue with the at-home tray/gel system for 2-4 more weeks.
How Long Does Whitening Last?
The answer to that question depends on a number of factors: do you smoke, drink colored drinks like coffee, tea, red wine, dark sodas, etc. For permanent whitening you will need to occasionally "touch-up" the teeth by wearing the tray/gel for a night or two as you feel is necessary. Dr. Coates recommends 2-4 nights every 6 months as a minimum but some patients prefer to whiten for 1-2 times every month to really keep them sparkling. The gels come in tubes and are usually sold in groups of 2-4 and each tube may last a couple of treatments so the maintenance cost is minimal.