Whitening-so many options

January 20, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Buck @ 8:03 pm

So lately, we’ve been getting a lot of questions from patients about improving their smile. I guess it’s the new year and the popular new year resolution is to improve one’s smile. One of the most conservative options is to whiten the existing teeth. And what I’ve found is that patients are sometimes confused on the many options that are out there. Everything from over-the-counter products to whitening procedures by your dentist to kiosks in the mall and at the spa.
First, let’s have a dental lesson and discuss how whitening works. Any of these products (at least the ones I know of) will have either hydrogen peroxide (different formulation from what’s in the bottle, so don’t swish with bottled hydrogen peroxide and expect white teeth) or carbamide peroxide. These come in gel form which allows it to stick to the tooth. The gel is put in a carrier and then applied to the teeth. The peroxide oxidizes the staining within the tooth and removes the color. It also dehydrates the teeth which can cause mild sensitivity, but as the teeth rehydrate the sensitivity will subside. There is no evidence that the whitening gel damages the teeth unless you are using it incorrectly.
Over-the-counter products range from Crest Whitestrips and Aquafresh trays to any sort of generic store-packaged products. The advantages to these things are they are cheap and are to be worn for less time each day. The disadvantages are that they usually do not cover all the teeth (usually the front six teeth), they do not have as strong of bleaching gels in them, and they do not get the in-between areas of the teeth, especially if you have any crowding or rotation of your teeth.
You’ll find these kiosks at the mall or in your local spa in which they will sit you in a chair and apply bleaching gel to your teeth. I don’t know a lot about these places, but I can say that are cheaper than going to your dentist to get your teeth whitened, but more expensive than the over-the-counter stuff. The issue I have with a place like this is that it’s an uncontrolled environment. They don’t take formal medical histories and don’t have any dental training to diagnose if whitening is even going to work (some teeth just don’t whiten very well). Plus from what I understand, some of the products used are not FDA approved. If you’re considering a place like that, talk to your dentist so he/she can at least give you some insight.
Obviously, I’m biased, but the best, long-term whitening results come from your dental office. We offer three procedures to whiten our patients teeth. The in-office whitening involves coming in for about an hour or so and we whiten your teeth while you sit in the chair. I usually recommend that if you have an event such as a wedding, reunion, or other life event when you need white teeth soon. We also sell a universal tray system that uses a stronger gel than the OTCs and covers the back teeth as well. The most popular procedure is to make custom bleaching trays. We take impressions of your teeth then you wear the trays usually overnight with the gel inside for a couple weeks. In my experience it gives you the best results that last the longest. Most patients whiten every one to three years. The trays get those tough in-between area and along the gum line better than any other products out there.
Sorry to be so long winded in this post, but hopefully that enlightens you a little on the whitening stuff that is out there. I’m always available for any questions, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.