If you’re considering tooth whitening procedures, visit Dr. Skolnick for an oral examination to assess your overall oral health and to discuss the various forms of bleaching techniques available. This allows Dr. Skolnick to diagnose any dental problems that may be causing your teeth to be discolored.
“Dark or discolored teeth may be the result of infections or decay, and if left unchecked could lead to more serious complications later.
Decay or faulty fillings left untreated may lead to an abscess, which will require root canal therapy.
This root canal could have been avoided with early detection,” says Dr. Art Chal, President of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD).
Dentist-supervised bleaching is also safer and more effective than current over-the-counter (OTC) products. Your dentist will design a treatment program that is specific to your individual needs, and will include:
- Proper fitting mouth trays. OTC bleaching trays often do not fit properly. An improperly fitting mouth tray may hold your jaws too far apart and cause potential jaw problems. Improperly fitting trays may also leak, causing possible gum irritation and less effective bleaching.
- Monitoring your gum sensitivity. Your dentist can vary the level of bleach used to minimize or avert any discomfort. “We can alter the concentration of bleach so that even people with sensitive teeth can have their teeth bleached,” say Dr. Chal.
- Creating a treatment program to whiten your natural and restored teeth to a uniform color. Teeth that have been restored with crowns, veneers, or older fillings cannot be whitened with bleaching products. Your dentist will monitor the results to achieve a uniform smile for you.
Tooth-whitening procedures are becoming increasingly popular, and most dentists are seeing a significant increase in cases within the last three years. According to Dr. Chal, “I really think bleaching will become a routine procedure. Just like people routinely go to get their teeth cleaned, I think getting their teeth whitened will become part of that routine.” Two methods of dentist-supervised bleaching exist, involving either in-office or at-home treatment.
In-office power bleaching:
- A whitening gel containing a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide is applied to the teeth. Heat, light, or laser energy are applied to activate the chemical process.
- Power bleaching can be done in one to five visits; each visit usually lasts 45 minutes or more.
- Home bleaching may be recommended to enhance the effects.
At-home dentist-supervised bleaching:
- Patient wears a custom-fitted mouth tray containing the whitening gel every day for a few hours each day or night.
- Trays can be adjusted to lighten individual teeth.
- Mouth trays may be worn from one to five weeks.
- Two to five dental visits are required for proper mouth tray fittings and check-ups.
The type of bleaching treatment selected will depend on your priorities, such as how much time you have and how motivated you are to bleach at home. “If you are in a hurry, have limited time available, or don’t want to wear a mouth tray, then in-office power bleaching is your best option,” advises Dr. Chal. You can expect power bleaching to last one to three years, and touch-ups can be done in minimal time with little additional expense.
At-home dentist-supervised bleaching is more economical than in-office bleaching and lasts three to five years. Also, with at-home supervised bleaching, the patient keeps the mouth trays. To repeat the process, patients only needs to purchase the bleach from their dentist.
Costs of various bleaching treatments will, of course, vary by the type of treatment, how extensive the treatment is, where you live, and the experience level of your dentist. Bleaching techniques can also be tailored to your individual needs. For instance, you may only want to bleach your front teeth. Discuss all options with your dentist.
The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) has more information available on bleaching, and is the leading dental organization in the field of cosmetic dentistry. AACD members are dedicated to advancing the art and science of cosmetic dentistry and receive ongoing educational opportunities in the field.*