In the past twenty years, there have been tremendous advances in the field of tooth whitening. While in the past it was necessary to make crowns or veneers to change the color of teeth, today, we can, in most cases, whiten natural teeth without doing any damage to the teeth themselves while maintaining a patient’s natural teeth and smile.
The most common methods to whiten teeth today are:
- Over the counter whitening products
- At home bleaching trays which are designed by a dentist
- In-office bright light or laser whitening performed in the dental office
Over the Counter Products:Walking through the drug store aisles, one can find a plethora of over the counter tooth whitening products. Among the most popular are Crest White Strips. All of these products, for the most part, contain the same chemicals that produce whitening. The degree of whitening attained using any of these products is variable.
Dentist Designed Trays:
One of the methods a dentist may use to attain whiter teeth for his patient is a take home system using custom bleaching trays. The dentist will take an impression of the patient’s teeth. The lab will then create custom bleaching trays for the patient. At the subsequent visit, the dentist will select the initial shade or the pre-bleaching shade. He will then fit the custom trays to the patient’s mouth, distribute the bleaching materials to the patient and will give instructions on how to place the material inside the tray and directions on how to use the trays. Depending on the brand of material used, the patient will generally wear the bleaching trays for about two hours a day for two weeks to attain maximum whitening.
At the follow up visit, the dentist will reexamine the patient‘s teeth and match the new shade against the pre- bleaching shade to quantify how much whiter the teeth have become. The dentist will provide the patient with some extra material to refresh the whitening every so often as needed.
In Office Laser or Light Bleaching:
For those patients who want immediate results, several systems exist for laser or bright light bleaching. These procedures are performed in the dental office using either lasers or bright light to initiate the bleaching materials. A pre and post bleaching shade are selected to evaluate the success of the treatment. The process generally takes about 1 hour and immediate results are generally seen using this process. The dentist may also provide custom trays and some bleaching material to refresh the bleaching.