Whitening your teeth is the simplest, most cost effective way to make the biggest positive difference in your smile. Your smile is one of the first things people notice about you, and it’s a huge part of what makes (or breaks) your first impression. The color of your teeth can greatly influence perceptions about your age, health, beauty or hygiene. Whiter teeth can simply improve the appearance of your smile and overall attractiveness. It can elevate your mood and make you feel good about yourself.
The best way to achieve whiter teeth is with dentist-prescribed, home-applied bleaching. Based on current clinical experience and research conducted to date, this is a safe and effective technique for whitening teeth. Special “bleaching lights” (like the heavily advertised “Zoom”) provide absolutely no additional benefit whatsoever. Having your mouth open for a long period of time with your teeth exposed to the air (as would be the case if a light were shining on it), only dries out the teeth and dehydrates them. This dehydration will make the teeth appear instantly whiter, even without the light. After the mouth is closed and saliva is able to re-hydrate the teeth for four to six hours, they will return to their original color. Only dental bleaching gels in contact with the teeth can truly change the color of your teeth by making them lighter.
There is only one active ingredient in all products made for at-home tooth whitening. That ingredient is hydrogen peroxide. The bleaching gel used by dentists is carbamide peroxide which is a combination of hydrogen peroxide and urea blended with a gel. Unlike straight hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide is able to penetrate more deeply into the tooth where the hydrogen peroxide is then able to destroy stains through a process called oxidation.
It is very important to eliminate all dental infections and diseases from the mouth, like cavities and gum disease, before whitening the teeth for two reasons mainly: 1.) It is unknown the effects of the bleaching gel on an exposed and untreated cavity 2.) Plaque (bacteria) and extrinsic stains, if not cleaned from the tooth surfaces, can impede or block the hydrogen peroxide from penetrating and whitening the teeth. Plus, it just makes good common sense to get the mouth healthy before you whiten your teeth, or you may eventually lose the very teeth you are trying to whiten!
Once you are ready to have your teeth whitened, impressions of your teeth need to be made. (If you are having both your upper and lower teeth whitened, which is what is usually done, two impressions will be taken; one for the upper and one for the lower.) A model is then made from this impression, which is an exact replica of your teeth. Then, using that model, a custom fitted whitening tray is fabricated from a soft, comfortable plastic. You will return on a separate day to receive the tray and whitening gel.
Carbamide peroxide always works. There are no exceptions. Sometimes the end result does not live up to one’s expectations, but the disappointment comes from entertaining unreasonable expectations – which, of course, has nothing to do with the product used. Everyone’s teeth are not the same, and even different teeth within the same individual can vary, therefore, bleaching results will vary. Each individual tooth will only attain a certain maximum whiteness and no more, no matter how much a person bleaches, and this will be different from individual to individual. Usually, all teeth in the same individual will obtain the same color, eventually. On average, this will require two weeks of daily bleaching and usually one, but maybe two in-office bleaching visits. In some cases, where the teeth are severely stained and/or have stubborn stains, whitening can be a long term treatment lasting up to about eight weeks of daily bleaching. Normal tooth whitening starts at the biting edges of the teeth and works its way up. Normal color of teeth is darker toward the gum line.
Hydrogen peroxide does not whiten any dental restorative material. As your teeth get whiter, your previous tooth-colored restorations do not and therefore start to appear darker. If you desire a perfect match, these restorations will need to be replaced to match your newly whitened teeth. The whitening result will reverse slowly over time, and, for that reason, it is important that you wear the bleaching trays with the gel once a month to maintain the desired result.
At home whitening failure comes from only three areas of concern: 1.) Patient non-compliance, and 2.) Poorly fabricated whitening trays 3.) Ineffective bleaching gel. Patience, perseverance, and following your instructions is your job and is very important in order to successfully achieve your goal of whiter teeth. Providing an accurate tray and bleaching gel is the dentist’s responsibility.
At Jack M. Hosner, D.D.S., we feel that we provide you with the most accurate and comfortable trays you can buy. An accurately fitting tray maximizes the whitening effect by better holding the bleach on the teeth and off of the gums and by sealing better around the teeth, thereby reducing saliva contamination of the bleaching gel. The type of tray we use is very comfortable. In fact, most people even forget they are wearing them. When it is in your mouth, it is not very noticeable.
A word about commercially available home bleach products using trays:
This method can be compared to home hair treatment. Although relatively inexpensive, the non professionally supervised home concepts, whether for hair or teeth, usually are inferior to the professionally supervised products. Results can be inconsistent and unsatisfying. There are two main disadvantages: 1.) The tray does not custom fit around all of your teeth, and saliva can creep under the tray thus contaminating and rendering inactive the bleaching gel itself, 2.) The bleach is not as strong. Without an accurate tray, the bleach is not held on the tooth surface very well. This decreases the effectiveness of the bleach, thus increasing the length of time it takes to whiten your teeth, and it also increases the likelihood of inadvertently swallowing more bleach which can be harmful to your health. It also makes wearing the tray more uncomfortable. If your teeth are a little crooked, these store bought trays do not adapt around the crooked positions of your teeth.
With a less effective bleaching product, the whitening results take much longer and require you to buy the product over and over again. Custom made trays by your dentist can be used indefinitely, (unless you later have braces that grossly change the position of your teeth), and you can always “touch up” your whitening over the years by just simply purchasing more bleach.