For teeth that have become yellow or discolored, in-office teeth whitening is an expeditious method used to brighten a patient’s smile. These bleaching procedures are performed in a dental office under the guidance of a dentist. When considering various treatment options, it is important patients have a clear understanding of how a dentist can address stains and know what to expect for the end result.
Who is a good candidate for in-office teeth whitening?
When evaluating the effectiveness of a teeth whitening treatment for a patient, the dentist will take into consideration the cause of the staining and the patient’s overall dental health. Tooth discoloration can fall into one of the following three categories:
- Extrinsic discoloration: Yellowing that occurs on the outer enamel of the teeth is often due to neglecting dental hygiene, consuming dark liquids or foods and smoking.
- Intrinsic discoloration: Staining of the inner dentin of the teeth may be caused by trauma, medication, excessive fluoride, decay or genetics.
- Age-related discoloration: As people age, the tooth’s enamel becomes thinner, making the dentin more apparent through the teeth.
Extrinsic stains are often the most responsive to bleaching treatments. If the patient has had any other dental restorations, such as implants, fillings or crowns, whitening may not be an option since the materials used for these prosthetics are resistant to chemical staining. Any tooth decay, gum disease or other dental problems needs to be addressed beforehand. People with gum or tooth sensitivity or allergies to bleaching agents may need to consider other options for achieving the desired results.
How does a dentist perform teeth whitening?
Before starting the bleaching process, the dentist will determine the current shade of the patient’s teeth and clean the mouth in preparation. The next step is to isolate the teeth by using a physical barrier or liquid dam to expose the teeth while protecting the surrounding gums.
The dentist can then apply the bleaching gel directly to the teeth, which typically includes a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide. A curing light or dental laser is sometimes used to stimulate the peroxide or speed up the process. Depending on the product used, the gel may be left on for up to 60 minutes or reapplied every 15 to 30 minutes.
Achieving the desired results
While some patients may go into a teeth whitening procedure with the expectation of achieving a flawless, bright white smile, results vary depending on the patient’s dental health and genetic makeup. In-office sessions last until the desired shade is reached or the maximum treatment time has passed. In some situations, multiple visits may be needed to address intrinsic discoloration or stubborn stains. The effects of any whitening treatment are not permanent.
By using a higher concentration of bleaching agents, in-office teeth whitening procedures often remove stains from the teeth faster than at-home treatments. It is important for patients to go into the procedure with realistic expectations and discuss what whitening options are available with a dentist.
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