Four Common Questions About Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening has become an increasingly popular cosmetic procedure in the last few years. It’s nearly impossible to watch television or look through a magazine without seeing an advertisement for tooth whiteners, or at least people coming across photos of individuals with bright, shiny smiles. Before you decide to undergo a teeth-whitening procedure, you should consider your options – and know the answers to the following top questions about teeth whitening:

What are the different methods of teeth whitening?

There are two primary methods of teeth whitening; an in-office procedure or an at-home bleaching kit.

  • In-office procedure – This can be one of the most effective ways to get your teeth whitened because it removes all the stains on your teeth – even ones that you can’t get rid of with a home whitening kit. With this type of procedure, you can choose the level of whitening you want – and, it can complement Invisalign invisible braces, porcelain veneers, and other treatments.
  • At-home bleaching kit – At-home solutions can be done through whitening strips or a custom tray. These are less expensive and you’ll be able to see results in just a couple weeks. Whitening strips can be worn for about 30 minutes a day and can be purchased online or in a department store. A custom tray is the other at-home solution, and is usually created in a dentist office, then given to you to take home and wear a few hours each day. This treatment option is sometimes preferred because it doesn’t damage fillings and caps, or irritate gums like many at-home strips can.

How long does teeth whitening last?

Teeth whitening is a not a permanent solution and can begin to fade in as little as one month. There are certain foods and beverages that will stain the teeth, like coffee, tea, and soda. If you avoid these foods, your teeth will stay whiter for much longer. Other factors that effect how long your teeth stay white include the nature of the stain, the type of bleaching system used, and the condition of your teeth before you began the whitening process.

Is there anyone that should avoid teeth whitening?

There are a few circumstances in which teeth whitening will not be successful, or isn’t recommended, including:

  • Those under the age of 16 – The nerve of the tooth, or pulp chamber, is enlarged until around the age of 16. If the patient undergoes whitening at this point in their life, it could irritate the pulp or make it even more sensitive.
  • Those with sensitive teeth or allergies – If you have receding gums, sensitive teeth and gums, or are allergic to peroxide, you should avoid using a teeth whitening system – or at least consult your doctor before you begin.
  • Those with fillings or other dental restorations – Resin composite materials and tooth-colored fillings commonly used in veneers, bonding, and crowns, will not whiten. So, using a whitening system on these teeth will result in uneven whitening or discoloration.

Are there risks or side effects associated with teeth whitening?

Two of the most common side effects associated with teeth whitening include mild irritation of the mouth’s soft tissues, and an increase in tooth sensitivity during the early stages of the whitening process. To help prevent this from happening, there are a few things you can do:

  • Stop whitening your teeth for 2-3 days to give your teeth ample time to adjust to the whitening process.
  • Use a toothpaste that’s designed for sensitive teeth.
  • If you’re using trays, ask your dentist for a product that contains a high amount of fluoride. Add this to the tray and wear it for five minutes before and after wearing the whitening agent.