If you want a movie star smile, then think about whitening your teeth. The most frequently used Cosmetic Dentistry treatment is Teeth Whitening. It is also one of the easiest and least expensive treatments that can be done to get a more beautiful smile. Tooth whitening is done by one of three major methods: over the counter whiteners, custom made dental take home bleach trays, and dental in-office laser treatment. The one-hour in-office tooth whitening is probably the fastest cosmetic dental technique that can be used. Most people are good candidates to have their teeth bleached by a Cosmetic Dentist. However, there are some people who are not good candidates for bleaching, which includes but is not limited to people with severe periodontal disease.

The best candidates for Teeth Whitening have several things in common:

  • They generally have good oral health habits
  • They are old enough to understand the procedure
  • They have yellowish or brownish stained teeth
  • They desire to improve their appearance
  • They have realistic expectations about the whitening process

People interested in Tooth Whitening should have a consultation with their Cosmetic Dentist before proceeding with treatment to determine if bleaching is proper for their particular situation. Not everyone can have beautiful white teeth from bleaching alone, because bleaching varies with each person and their age. Different people require different strengths of bleach and different amounts of time to obtain the best results. There are many over the counter tooth bleaches available but these are made for the ?masses? and do not take into consideration any individual requirements or challenges. For example, if you have composite fillings in your anterior teeth, whiteners are not going to bleach them. Over the counter tooth whiteners are the least expensive way to whiten teeth. However, they do not work well on the surfaces between the teeth and at the gum lines, which may give shadow appearances in those areas. Because of the differences in people and the results that may be obtained, it is best to consult with your cosmetic dentist and have individually made custom take home bleach trays or have in office laser whitening.

The Tooth Whitening process should always start with a professional prophylactic tooth cleaning by your Cosmetic Dentist, family dentist or dental hygienist. Some discoloring may be removed in this manner and it will give your dentist an opportunity to evaluate your overall dentition and possibly determine how sensitive you may be to the tooth bleaching agents, which are usually composed of a bleaching agent such as hydrogen peroxide. These break down to form oxygen molecules, which assist in removing the stain particles on your teeth by breaking them down into smaller particles. The more deeply the stains are embedded into the tooth structure, the more difficult they are to remove. Stains that appear light brown or yellow respond best to the bleaching treatment, while stains that are blue-gray to very dark black are the most resistant to bleaching because they are usually the most deeply embedded into the tooth structure. These darker stains are often formed because to the patient has taken medications such as tetracycline into their bloodstream during the time their teeth were developing. These can be extremely difficult to bleach properly, and in some cases the patient may require a different treatment such as porcelain veneers or full anterior porcelain crowns.

Cosmetic Tooth Whitening time is dependent upon several things, which include:

  • The type of tooth whitening procedure used
  • How long the whitening gel in is contact with your teeth
  • The strength of the whitening gel used
  • The amount of stain and discoloration on the teeth
  • The type of stain and discoloration on the teeth
  • The degree of whiteness the patience desires for their teeth

Custom made Teeth Whitening trays can often give satisfactory results within a short period of time, such as a couple of days or a week. However, in some cases, it may take several weeks or even months for complete results to be attained depending on the type of stain and discoloration as well as the natural resistant of the patient?s teeth to the bleaching process. Depending on personal habits of the patient, the bleaching procedure can have effects that last up to 3 years, or in some cases longer. Once your teeth have reached your desired color you can usually maintain that color for as long as you like by using your custom made bleach trays at irregular intervals as needed for short periods of time.

In-office Tooth Whitening by your Cosmetic Dentist is very fast and only takes about an hour, and is more dramatic than only using custom take home teeth whitening trays. The major draw back to in-office bleaching is the higher cost of the procedure. However, for busy people on the go and professional or business people, the combination of speed and superior results of the in-office tooth whitening technique cannot be surpassed.

When you first visit your dentist, you should discuss what your expectations are for your personal Teeth Whitening. These expectations must be realistic. The different types of teeth whitening options currently available to you by your cosmetic dentist should be explained to you, as well as the expected results, how the procedures are performed, what the limitations are for each of the different whitening procedures, and the cost comparisons. You should talk with your dentist about your pain tolerance, your budget and the expectations of your final results in order to assist the cosmetic dentist in deciding what bleaching method or combination of methods would be best for you. Your cosmetic dentist should conduct a complete medical history as well as a thorough dental exam, including an in depth examination of your head and neck area. Before and after pictures should be taken to record your progress and evaluate your results. The presence of poor oral hygiene or large cavities may require x-rays for diagnoses and may require restorative treatment before any cosmetic tooth whitening procedures can be performed.

During the in-office Tooth Whitening process, which is under the direct supervision of the Cosmetic Dentist, the cosmetic dental staff will apply a protective layer of material, which covers your gums to prevent injury to these tissues during the bleaching procedure. Then a special hydrogen peroxide containing bleaching solution is applied to the teeth and a laser or high intensity light activates the gel on the teeth. This causes the release of oxygen molecules from the gel, which will whiten your teeth very quickly. Bleaching at home is performed under indirect observation of your dentist. Your dentist takes impressions of your teeth and from these he or she has bleach trays fabricated. These custom trays should fit your teeth almost perfectly and be reasonably comfortable to wear during the teeth bleaching process. These custom trays allow the patient to keep the bleaching gel on their teeth while avoiding its spread to the soft tissues of the mouth such as the gums, cheeks, tongue and inner lips, which are very sensitive to the bleaching solution.

Some discomfort may occur with any type of Teeth Whitening process. The amount of discomfort that a patient may experience can vary from individual to individual and also may vary with the teeth whitening method used. However, the majority of patients having their teeth whitened will only experience slight if any discomfort, which usually goes away within 24 hours. In the instance that the discomfort lasts for more than 2 days the patient should call his or her dentist for advice. In rare cases where the discomfort is severe, the patient they may have to have their dentist prescribe medication.

Although the results of Tooth Whitening can vary from person to person, most patients are very satisfied with their results. Foods that are capable of staining teeth easily and rapidly, such as red wine, blue berries and tobacco should be avoided for about a week. Maintaining good oral hygiene with regular brushing and flossing will help maintain the results you have achieved regardless of the method of teeth whitening. On average, teeth bleaching will only last about 1-2 years. However, if you don’t use tobacco on a regular basis and don’t eat too many of the foods that are proven to stain teeth, your bleaching results may last longer up to 3 years, and in some cases even longer. Once your teeth have reached the color desired, they usually can be maintain at that color for as long as you like by using custom made bleach trays for short periods of time. For additional information on tooth whitening see our other articles.

Benefits of Teeth Whitening are many and include the following:

  • Increased self image that should last many years
  • A more beautiful smile that is whiter and relatively inexpensive
  • A non-invasive cosmetic dental procedure that maintains tooth structure
  • A more youthful appearing smile often is perceived

Teeth Whitening is one of the fastest, least expensive, relatively painless, and non-invasive cosmetic dental techniques available to improve your smile.

Dr Cynthia Pauley DDS and her mother, Dr Patricia Pauley DDS, specialize in cosmetic dentistry in Seattle, Washington. They were selected the 2005 Small Business of the Year by the Western Washington Better Business Bureau and were featured in the 2006 Top Dentists Issue of Seattle Magazine. You can visit their cosmetic dentistry web site for additional information on tooth whitening and other cosmetic dentistry procedures.