Teeth Whitening/Bleaching

What is whitening (bleaching)?

It is the process of reversing tooth discoloration by “whitening” to a lighter shade. It is the most requested and performed cosmetic dental procedure to improve a smile.

Why do I need to bleach my teeth?

Whitening can restore the look of a time when you were younger and your teeth were lighter. The procedure does not harm the teeth. Bleaching gives a more youthful, vigorous look to the teeth.

How is this done?

There are basically three ways to whiten (bleach) teeth:

  • In-office
  • At home with a custom tray
  • At home with a stock tray or over the counter product

What is the difference between the three methods of whitening (bleaching)?

The difference is time and cost. The results are similar.

  • In office bleaching: a relatively strong whitening agent is applied to the teeth under closely monitored conditions. The appointment is generally 1hr 15 minutes in length and requires 2 or 3 appointments depending on desired results and starting color. Sometimes this is augmented with take-home bleach after office treatment is complete. This is the best method when time is most important.
  • Take home bleach in a custom made tray: molds are made of upper and lower teeth. Custom bleaching trays (like very thin mouth guards) are fabricated on these models. “Home bleach” is dispensed with the trays. Patients use the bleach in the trays for 30 to 60 minutes per day for 2 -3 weeks. Many patients choose to do this during their commute to work. No office visits are necessary after the trays are fitted. The trays can be used over and over to “touch up bleach” at any time
  • Over the counter and stock tray bleach: the most time consuming and difficult method. Require the patient to use the system daily for 1 hour per day. Trays and strips for this method are cumbersome, the bleach is the weakest and this is the most difficult to do.

**There are many toothpastes and mouthwashes on the market that advertise bleaching agents in their formula. While the agents are actually in the formula, they do not contact the teeth for a long enough period of time to accomplish the whitening expected**

Fillings and crowns do not react to the bleach and will not change shade.

How long do the results last?

Most smiles will be color stable for 8-12 months with no noticeable change. If change is noticed, patients can “touch up bleach” either at home or in the dental office. If no “touch up” is done, the shade usually goes back to the original in about 2 years.