Teeth Whitening (Part One of Two)

May 02
2010

Word of Mouth
Teeth Whitening (Part One of Two)
By Dr. Wade Newman D.D.S.

Whitening (or bleaching) teeth has become very popular over the last few years. Many New Year’s resolutions involve things that make you look and feel better. One of the ways you can accomplish looking better is by whitening your teeth. There are numerous products on the market and a multitude of products that claim to be the best. In this article I’ll review the products and procedures available and my next article will answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding teeth whitening.
Home Teeth Whitening

The most popular technique allows you to make your smile whiter through dentist-supervised home whitening. The dental office will custom make a tray for you, to fit precisely over your teeth. You place gel in this tray and wear it for prescribed periods during the day, or overnight. Doing this for two weeks or more will brighten your smile. A dentist specially trained in this procedure will monitor your progress with short follow-up appointments.

Perhaps you have used over-the-counter bleaching products and have been disappointed with the results. There is a great difference in the potency of over-the-counter versus professional bleaching products. I am not aware of any over-the-counter product that produces the dramatic shade change that is possible with professionally administered bleaching. Some of the over-the-counter products can be harmful to the teeth if used improperly. The bleaching techniques that are used in offices of trained dentists have been accepted by the American Dental Association as safe and effective.

A recent over-the-counter product from oral care companies is Whitestrips. While it appears that Whitestrips are the best of the over-the-counter products, many patients have difficulty keeping them in place, which then lessens the amount of whitening that is accomplished. For those who can’t afford the professional bleaching, Whitestrips may be an attractive alternative. They do actually whiten the teeth, and, unlike other over-the-counter whiteners, they do not harm the teeth. Any whitening procedure, Whitestrips or otherwise, should be accomplished under the supervision of your dentist.

Whitening toothpastes are generally completely ineffective at permanently whitening the teeth. They are simply not on the teeth long enough for any whitening agents to penetrate into the teeth.

Laser bleaching (Zoom, Brite Smile, and other treatments):
Laser bleaching or power bleaching is a hot topic. In my opinion, it’s a little over-rated. You can get just as effective whitening with the bleaching trays at home as you can with laser bleaching, but maybe not as quickly. The advantage with laser bleaching or power bleaching is that the dental office does the bleaching for you—you don’t have to deal with the trays at home. It’s also faster. Most people will go home from that visit with a smile at least one shade lighter. There may be a little more sensitivity afterward with laser bleaching than with regular at-home tooth whitening, but that sensitivity typically lasts only a couple of hours.

The famed blue light (also called plasma light or zoom light) is just for show. The claim is that it “activates” the whitening gel. Many studies have shown that there is no evidence of increased effectiveness by utilizing the light. The only way to increase the effectiveness of the whitening gel is to heat it to 150 degrees, which is impractical because it would burn the teeth and gums.

In my next article, I’ll answer the most commonly asked questions in regard to teeth whitening.

Dr. Newman is a family dental practitioner in Bellefonte and is accepting new patients. You may contact Dr. Newman at his office: Bellefonte Family Dentistry, 114 South School St. Bellefonte PA 16823, 814-355-1587 or visit www.bellefontedental.com

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