As we get ready for summer, many Americans are considering how their smiles will look without a mask for the first time in a year – teeth whitening treatments are often seen as an easy fix to stains on teeth. With many seeing friends again in person, people are excited to show off those pearly whites. But how effective is teeth whitening, and how quickly will I see results?
What is Tooth Whitening?
Tooth whitening is a term that applies to a variety of methods for removing surface stains on teeth and bringing out the natural whiteness of teeth. These stains are most common among those who frequently drink coffee, soda, or wine, and are especially prevalent among tobacco users. However, over time, and particularly without regular dental checkups, teeth will naturally become discolored.
Professional teeth whitening services vary among practitioners. The three most common methods of teeth whitening treatments are laser teeth whitening, teeth whitening trays, and over-the-counter whitening strips. We examine the benefits and drawbacks to each below.
In-Office Teeth Whitening Treatment
Laser Whitening Treatment
Laser whitening treatment generally takes around one to two hours, and can require several trips to the dentist to see full results. Before starting, most dentists begin with a general prophylactic cleaning and examination of your teeth for any signs of damage or tooth decay. The procedure may be postponed if signs of damage are present, as the treatment can aggravate these symptoms.
At the beginning of the procedure, cheek retractors will be applied to the sides of your mouth, and a rubber dam or hardening resin will be applied to your gums to protect them throughout the procedure. A bleaching gel then will be applied to your teeth.
Some dentists use a laser after applying the bleaching gel. There is speculation as to whether this method is actually effective – we do not use this at our practice.
While the results of this procedure may be more instantaneous, it may take several visits to the dentist to receive the full results you are looking for, depending on the level of tooth discoloration. More, some dentists speculate the efficacy of the laser portion of the procedure. While this method is effective, it can be cost-prohibitive and takes time between visits to see the full effect.
Teeth Whitening Trays
Take-home teeth whitening trays are one of the most common in-office whitening procedures used today. It is one of the safest teeth whitening systems available today, and provides fantastic results at a great value.
These treatments require a mold of your teeth to be cast using dental putty. Custom-fitted trays typically require one to two weeks to be cast. Once finished, you will need to apply the included peroxide agent and wear the trays for an hour a day over a two-week period.
The end results of both treatment methods tend to be equal, but teeth whitening trays are significantly cheaper than laser whitening treatments. Teeth whitening trays may require more frequent applications, but less visits to the dentist.
Over-the-Counter Teeth Whitening Treatment
Over-the-counter teeth whitening strips are generally considered to be the most effective method of at-home whitening available. Yet with many varieties on the market, their overall efficacy varies, with some users reporting no results.
While over-the-counter methods of whitening teeth can be effective, they tend to only affect the front six teeth of your mouth, rather than your entire mouth. These products are generally weaker than what is used in the office, making the end result can be less satisfactory. Your dentist may have recommendations as to what products work best.
Teeth whitening takes time, and isn’t an instantaneous process. More, if your teeth are crooked or rotated, the results may not be ideal. For the best results, seeing a dental professional is highly recommended. With access to higher concentrations of tooth whitening solutions and the tools to apply it, their results have a more proven record of success.
Teeth Whitening Sensitivity
In some cases, people who undergo teeth whitening may feel sensitivity or pain after the treatment. This is most pronounced when drinking hot or cold liquids or food.
Teeth whitening pain is generally caused from a sensitivity to hydrogen peroxide, which is one of the most common active ingredients in professional and over-the-counter treatments.
While teeth whitening sensitivity may be bothersome, it thankfully only lasts a short period of time. More importantly, it doesn’t cause any long-lasting side effects or damage your teeth or gums. If you’re experiencing pain after teeth whitening, consider:
- Temporarily avoid extreme temperatures
- For professional treatments, talk to your dentist about what options are available for you
- For at-home treatments, use teeth whitening treatments with lower peroxide levels (5-6%) and apply treatments for shorter periods of time
Keeping Teeth Whiter Longer Requires Preventative Measures and Maintenance
Teeth whitening procedures can color your teeth whiter than their natural color, leading to a striking visual effect. While the results of in-person treatments yield the best results, cost and time commitments should be taken into consideration before beginning.
At Treasured Smiles Adult and Cosmetic Dentistry, we offer the Venus White Teeth Whitening procedure at our office. It has quickly become one of our most popular services, and is sure to give you the summer smile you deserve!
Looking for a tooth whitening evaluation or a dentist near me? Contact us today for more information about our services.