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Tooth Whitening Techniques and Their Effects

Concerns regarding dental stain and whitening are commonly encountered worldwide. To many, addressing the stain by whitening is often seen as a luxury.  It no longer needs to be considered an extravagance because whitening options have become so diverse and economical. It is important to understand that not all stains can be removed by whitening. Stain from tetracycline and dental fluorosis is within the dental hard tissue and is much more difficult to remove with traditional whitening options. Microabrasion and restorative options may be the best option for those situations. Ask Dr. King and his staff about how to best work toward your goal.  For those who have surfaces stains such as from certain mouth rinses, chlorine, smoking, poor oral hygiene, and dietary choices, there are many products that are available. Whitening toothpaste often contains hydrogen peroxide and/or baking soda that may brighten your smile but they are very unlikely to remove the surface stain that is already there as this stain can only be removed by your dental hygienist during routine hygiene appointments.  

Dr. King’s Family and Cosmetic Dentistry offers an array of options such as custom trays with bleaching gel that the patient uses at home, Glo in-office whitening, Zoom in-office whitening and Sheer White strips. All of these are better options than strips that are sold in the drugstore, as the over-the-counter strips are weaker and they tend to be thinner and not as sticky. In order to achieve the best result, the whitening agent much remains in good contact with the tooth. That is difficult to accomplish if the strip is slipping and sliding all over the tooth.  

When choosing how to best way to whiten your teeth, there are a few things to consider: cost, strength, and compliance. How much do you want to spend?  Are your teeth already sensitive? Are you willing to whiten at home or do you prefer that it is done in the dental office? Some patients know that they will buy a product and never remember to use it, or state that they are “too lazy” to do it at home. For these patients, we suggest an option that is completed in the dental office. Because whitening CAN cause temporary tooth sensitivity, consulting with your dentist or hygienist about preventative measures is recommended prior to whitening. He/she can also be a good source of information on how to deal with post-bleaching sensitivity. Don’t simply shy away from whitening out of fear of tooth sensitivity as technology has come far over the years in terms of limiting the amount of sensitivity it causes. 

Patients ask, “Am I actually putting BLEACH in my mouth?” No, not exactly. The two most common whitening agents are carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide.  While they both work in the same way, hydrogen peroxide is stronger than carbamide peroxide at the same concentration. What that means is if the label says 20%  hydrogen peroxide, it is 3x stronger than 20% carbamide peroxide. 

Why bleach? While some patients opt for whitening to brighten his/her overall smile, there are other very important reasons to whiten, especially in patients that may not have thought about the option before. If a patient is having restorative work done in the “smile zone” (the front of the mouth), whitening needs to be done prior to the work being completed as the color of the restorations are chosen based on the neighboring teeth. If the patient chooses to whiten at a later time, it will make the filling/crown appear darker. It is important to understand that whitening does NOT change the color of fillings and crowns. In patients with white spots and splotchiness on their teeth, it is also beneficial to lighten the tooth structure around these white spot lesions to reduce the difference in color and to make them less noticeable Ask Dr. King and his staff about the revolutionary treatment known as ICON which is a treatment to help blend the discoloration of the tooth. 

Pre and post bleaching protocol is just as important as the bleaching method. The best time to bleach is right after your teeth have been professionally cleaned. Even more important is that staining foods and beverages should be avoided for three (3) days after the bleaching has been completed because the same way that the bleach gets into the tooth is the same way that stain gets into the tooth. The protective layer (pellicle) does not reform for about 3 days with traditional whitening.  

At the end of the day, the type of bleaching that is best for a patient is dependent upon how much time and money he/she wants to spend. Please contact our office at 757-464-6228 so that we can help make your smile as bright as it can be!