Today’s blog is about the professionally supervised bleaching options available to you. The following are important considerations in determining which method of whitening your teeth is best for you:
- The process does not damage the teeth. The worst side effect is possible temporary sensitivity.
- It is impossible to predict the degree of whitening prior to treatment.
- Active gum disease, decay, or dental pathology must be corrected prior to beginning the whitening process.
- The teeth must be clean. If it has been more than 3 months since your last professional dental cleaning, we advise that this be done first. The cleaner the teeth are, the better they will lighten.
- If you have tooth-colored restorations (fillings), porcelain crowns (caps), or a removable partial denture with teeth that are visible, note that these materials will not change color as your teeth will. It is possible that these restorations will need to be replaced or modified after the whitening is completed.
- The more yellow your teeth are initially, the more color change (lighter/whiter) will be noticed after whitening. Research indicates that teeth can only get “as white as they can get.” The color is a function of the physical properties of the teeth. Further whitening beyond that point will not have a noticeable effect.
- Teeth with tetracycline discolorations will take a lot longer time to lighten, sometimes months of tray use.
- If you have whitened your teeth before (with professional solutions and trays), there will be a less noticeable color change.
- In-office whitening (ZOOM) is very quick, but seem to lighten teeth only 60-75% of their potential whiteness. It uses high intensity light and stronger bleaching solutions than tray bleaching. The in-office procedure takes 1-2 hours; the at-home technique is slower and requires more time commitment on your part. The at-home technique has the potential to whiten teeth beyond what can be achieved in-office, but you must be willing to be patient with the process. The best results are always achieved with a combination of the 2 techniques.
- The lightening process continues for 2 days after the in-office whitening. You should not drink tea, coffee, cola beverages, or smoke for those 48 hours (the 48 hour rule).
- There is a “rebound” color change possible after the whitening is completed. It is between one-half and one shade as noted on the commonly used shade color guides. In the combination in-office/at-home tray technique, this rebound is minimized or eliminated.
- Some people experience sensitivity after the procedure. This sensitivity is not permanent and will quickly disappear. Fluoride gels may be prescribed in this event.
- The color change remains satisfactory for approximately 2-5 years. Your eating/drinking lifestyle habits contribute to future yellowing of the teeth, but touch-ups can easily manage this staining..
- Teeth can have the whitening process repeated when they again darken. Usually this takes the form of touching up the bleaching at home for 1-2 hours after each hygiene visit, but it can be done more or less, depending on your preference.
There are three possible whitening combinations available at our office:
1. ZOOM, in-office technique alone: We use the latest ZOOM techniques. The total number of teeth whitened depends on the presenting conditions. Although the teeth are isolated and soft tissues are protected, it is possible some of the whitening solution can contact the tissues and irritate them causing them to temporarily turn white and be sensitive. This will go away in a few hours at most. This procedure is completed in one appointment. Some postoperative color rebound is possible. ZOOM effectively "jump-starts" the bleaching process.
2. At-home custom tray system tooth whitening alone: Thin, comfortable, clear custom made trays cover all top and bottom teeth. They can be worn while sleeping but are usually worn for 1-2 hours per day up to twice a day. This technique can take from one to four weeks to complete depending on how often you wear your trays. We typically will see you once a week to monitor and guide your progress. Trays are kept and used in the future to “touch up” you teeth as needed.
3. Combination of in-office and at-home tray whitening: This is the fastest, most effective, best value, and what we usually recommend as our first choice.. The ZOOM whitening is done in one appointment, and custom trays subsequently used for 1-3 weeks afterwards. This always gives the best, whitest, and longest lasting result. The trays stabilize the color, reduce rebound, and are available for the future touch-ups so you are not "married" to the ZOOM machine.
Well, that’s about all for today. If you have any questions about whiter teeth, please feel free to ask me or my staff!
Until next time!
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD