Your wedding is coming up, and you want your smile to be its brightest. Or maybe you have an important speaking engagement. Whatever the reason, tooth bleaching isn't just for movie stars, and it isn't just for one day. Many people have had their teeth bleached, and probably millions more are thinking about it. The desire for a brighter smile with whiter teeth is very strong, and tooth bleaching safely lightens the color of the teeth, lasting for up to five years. The most effective and safest method of tooth bleaching is dentist-supervised.
Is Bleaching For You?
Generally, bleaching is successful in at least 90 percent of patients, though it may not be an option for everyone. Consider tooth bleaching if your teeth are darkened from age, coffee, tea or smoking. Teeth darkened with the color of yellow, brown or orange respond better to bleaching. Gray stains caused by fluorosis, smoking or tetracycline use can be lightened, but results are not as dramatic. If you have very sensitive teeth, periodontal (gum) disease or teeth with worn enamel, your dentist may discourage bleaching.
First, Dr. Mayberry will determine whether you are a candidate for tooth bleaching and what type of bleaching system would provide the best results. If you're in a hurry for whiter teeth, you may decide to have your teeth lightened immediately. Our office uses the Sapphire in-office bleaching system while you sit in the dental chair. The Sapphire light is simply a very high intensity light which accelerates the whitening process. It is not a laser nor does it produce significant heat as some other systems do. The light will not harm your teeth in any way. We also include take home bleaching trays (as discussed below) for no additional fee when you do the in office bleaching. In office bleaching can be considered a "jump start" and the bleaching can be continued with the take home system. Some patients choose dentist-supervised at-home bleaching, which is more economical and provides similar results. With take home bleaching we will make impressions of your teeth to create a mouthguard appliance. The mouthguard is custom-made for your mouth and is lightweight so that it can be worn comfortably while you are awake or sleeping. The mouthguard is so thin that you should even be able to talk and work while wearing it. Along with the mouthguard, you'll receive the bleaching materials. You'll be given instructions on how to wear the mouthguard. Some bleaching systems recommend bleaching your teeth for several hours a day. Generally this type of system requires two to four weeks to complete. Other systems recommend bleaching at night while you sleep. This type of system usually requires only 10 to 14 days to complete.
Are There Side Effects?
Most patients are reporting no side effects at all. However, some patients have reported transient sensitivity in the teeth for a day or two, and even achy teeth later on the day of the bleaching. This is similar to side effects seen with home bleaching, but occurs much less often. In any event OTC pain medication can control this transient problem.In addition, the hydrogen peroxide used is mildly caustic to soft tissues in the mouth. Great care is taken to avoid the soft tissues, but if some peroxide inadvertently gets on the gum or lip it results in a mild chemical irritation. These areas heal quickly and can be soothed with salt water rinses and OTC analgesics. Once again this complication is rare and transient. Several studies have proven bleaching to be safe and effective. The American Dental Association has granted its seal of approval to some tooth bleaching products. Some patients may experience slight gum irritation or tooth sensitivity, which will resolve when the treatment ends.
Over-the-counter bleaching systems are also available and are generally safe and effective, although it is best to check with your dentist before using these products. These systems, which come in the form of strips and gels, usually contain a lower strength of bleaching agent than products used in the dentistís office. For this reason, they must be used longer to achieve a desired effect, but they are also cheaper
How Long Does It Last?
Lightness should last from one to five years, depending on your personal habits such as smoking and drinking coffee and tea. At this point you may choose to get a touch-up. The retreatment time is much shorter than the original treatment time.
How Does It Work?
The active ingredient in most of whitening agents is carbamide peroxide; when water comes into contact with this white crystal, the release of hydrogen peroxide lightens the teeth.
What Can I Expect?
No one can really predict how much lighter your teeth will become. Every case is different. Typically, there is a two-shade improvement as seen on a dentist's shade guide. The success rate depends upon the type of stain involved, the type of bleaching procedure and your compliance. Bleaching can only provide a shift in color from gray to a lighter shade of gray, for example. Bleaching does not lighten artificial materials such as bonding or veneers.
One quick note about tooth shading and marketing claims. The amount "ten shades (or six, eight, etc.) lighter" is often used by various promotions for chairside, home, or OTC whitening products. This measurement is a bit arbitrary as there are many shade guides in dentistry with varying numbers of shades. If I use a guide with lots of shades vs. a guide with less it will seem like you advanced more "shades."