What is teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening is a common cosmetic dentistry procedure, by which your teeth are given a color makeover, making them 4 to 8 shades lighter that the shade you have right now. At Lasting Smiles of Bethlehem, our aim is to give you the brightest smile possible, and improve your quality of life by giving you the confidence to smile more.
Who needs teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening could benefit almost everyone. Very few of us have that perfect pearly white beautiful smile, and while some of us have nicely arranged teeth (meaning they don’t need braces, veneers or other advanced cosmetic procedures) almost all of us are unhappy with our teeth color, and would love if we could just make it whiter and brighter.
Teeth are stained by years and years of smoking, alcohol, coffee and other types of stain containing foods. Over the years, these stains become innate to the teeth, meaning they can no longer be washed away with normal routine tooth brushing, or even with the standard routine polishing procedure done by the dentist or the hygienist. This is because the stains are no longer external, but are actually incorporated into the tooth structure. Teeth whitening gels can penetrate into the deep areas of the tooth in order to clear out these stains.
What are the types of teeth whitening procedures?
There are generally 3 types of teeth whitening procedures:
- Chemical whitening: This is an easier and probably less expensive procedure. A clear liquid is applied to the surface of the teeth to be whitened, same as nail polish. After that, the whitening gel is applied on top of that liquid (which acts as an activator) and left for 10 to 15 minutes before being cleared away with water or suction. This process is repeated until the teeth are 3 to 4 shades whiter.
- Light Bleaching: This procedure is essentially the same procedure as the chemical procedure, only instead of the activating liquid, the whitening gel is applied directly to the tooth surface, and is activated by exposure to a bright blue light for 10 minutes before being washed away. Again this process is repeated until the teeth are whiter.
- Laser bleaching: Almost exactly the same process as the light bleaching, but laser is used instead of the bright blue light. The benefit of laser is its high penetrating power, which makes the procedure less lengthy, but can cause a bit more sensitivity.
How does the whitening process go?
First, an assessment must be made not only to establish the need for whitening and if this procedure is right for you, but also to confirm that there are no restrictions to doing the process. Restrictions include hyper sensitive teeth, exposed roots, and heavily decayed or heavily restored teeth.
We would first start by applying a protective Fluoride gel for about 5 to 10 minutes, which aims at reducing the sensitivity during the procedure. To reduce that feeling of sensitivity even more, we would recommend using a tooth paste and a mouth wash with high fluoride content for 10 to 15 days prior to the procedure. After the 10 minutes are done, the Fluoride gel is washed and the teeth are cleared and dried.
The next step is isolation, since the whitening gels are caustic and quite harmful to the gums and other oral tissues. We would use a cheek retractor, cotton and gauze, as well as suction to prevent any gel or fluid leaking to the surroundings. Finally, a protective barrier gel (known as liquidam) is applied to the gums by using a syringe to inject it to the shape of the festoons of the gums. The general rule before beginning the procedure is “No Pink”.
Then the actual procedure starts according to the type of bleaching that you will have. The whitening gel is applied and activated either chemically, by light or with the laser, and this is repeated until the teeth become whiter.
After the process is done, we would clear away all the remains of the whitening gel, carefully so as not to seep into the gums or other tissues, and all the isolating material is carefully removed. The teeth are rinsed and dries, and another layer of Fluoride is applied to protect the teeth from being vulnerable to decay and sensitivity for the few days following the procedure.
We recommend keeping away from coffee, alcohol or any other food or drink containing a heavy stain, and refraining from smoking for at least 2 days after the procedure so as not to risk relapse.
What is to be expected after the procedure?
The whitening procedure opens up the pores of the teeth in order to clear away the stains. These pores remain open for roughly 48 hours after the procedure. This means 2 things:
- Expect some sensitivity since the protective layer of the tooth is opened to saliva, acids and even air, all of which could produce an electric shock like feeling of sensitivity.
- Due to these open pores, the teeth are very vulnerable, which means decay can occur at an accelerated rate, so make sure to keep a strict brushing and oral hygiene regimen. Also stains can stick to the teeth much faster, so keep away from staining items as mentioned before.
Is whitening dangerous?
With the right care both before and after the procedure, whitening carries very low risk to your teeth. Yes it opens the pores and yes it leaves the teeth vulnerable and sensitive, but with the Fluoride load 2 weeks before and the direct Fluoride therapy before and after the procedure, and with a proper cleaning and brushing regimen, we foresee no real problems.
If you have a white colored filling, especially if it is in the visible areas, they would probably need to be changed to match your new teeth color.
That being said, we recommend you don’t do this procedure multiple times, so choose a time that is most convenient to you, either before your wedding or may be your graduation, and make these once in a lifetime events for you.