Tooth Whitening Treatments
Everybody loves a bright white smile, and there are a variety of products and procedures available to help you improve the look of yours. Many people are satisfied with the sparkle they get from brushing twice daily with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, cleaning between their teeth once a day and the regular cleanings at the dentist's office. However, if you decide you would like to go beyond this to make your smile look brighter, you should investigate all of your options. You can whiten your smile in one appointment with the doctor or you can use an at home bleaching system (store-bought or from your dental office) or whitening toothpaste.
What should you ask the doctor?
You may want to start by speaking with the doctor. He or she can tell you whether whitening procedures would be effective for you. Whiteners may not correct all types of discoloration. For example, yellow-ish hued teeth will probably bleach well, brownish-colored teeth may bleach less well, and grayish-hued teeth may not bleach well at all. Likewise, bleaching may not enhance your smile if you have had tooth-colored fillings placed in your front teeth. The whitener will not affect the color of these materials, and they will stand out in your newly whitened smile. In these cases, you may want to investigate other options, like porcelain veneers.
What is in-office bleaching?
If you are a candidate for bleaching, the doctor may suggest a procedure that can be done in our office. This procedure is called chair-side bleaching and may require more than one office visit. Each visit may take from sixty to ninety minutes. During chair-side bleaching, the dentist will apply either a protective gel to your gums or a rubber shield to protect the oral soft tissues. A bleaching agent is then applied to the teeth, and a special light may be used to enhance the action of the agent. A number of in-office bleaching agents have the ADA Seal of Acceptance, your assurance that they have met ADA standards of safety and effectiveness.
What are at-home procedures and products?
There are several types of products available for use at home, which can either be dispensed by the doctor or purchased over the counter.
These products contain peroxide(s), which actually bleach the tooth enamel. These products typically rely on carbamide peroxide as the bleaching agent; carbamide peroxide comes in several different concentrations (10%, 16%, 22%). Peroxide-containing whiteners typically come in a gel and are placed in a mouthguard. Usage regimens vary. Some products are used twice a day for 2 weeks, and others are intended for overnight use for 1-2 weeks. If you obtain the bleaching solution from the doctor, he or she can make a custom-fitted mouthguard for you that will fit your teeth precisely. Currently, only dentist-dispensed home-use 10% carbamide peroxide tray-applied gels carry the ADA Seal.
You also may want to speak with the doctor should any side effects become bothersome. For example, teeth can become sensitive during the period when you are using the bleaching solution. In most cases, this sensitivity is temporary and should lessen once the treatment is finished. Some people also experience soft tissue irritation, either from a tray that doesn't fit properly or from solution that may come in contact with the tissues. If you have concerns about such side effects, you should discuss them with the doctor.
All toothpastes help remove surface stain through the action of mild abrasives. "Whitening" toothpastes in the ADA Seal of Acceptance program have special chemical or polishing agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, these ADA Accepted products do not alter the intrinsic color of teeth.
How should I choose a whitening product?
When selecting a whitener or any dental product, be sure to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance — your assurance that they have met ADA standards of safety and effectiveness.
Porcelain Veneers and Porcelain Crowns
There's no reason to put up with gaps in your teeth or with teeth that are stained, badly shaped or crooked. Today a veneer placed on top of your teeth can correct nature's mistake or the results of an injury and help you have a beautiful smile.
Veneers are thin, custom-made shells crafted of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the front side of teeth. Typically a dental technician makes them in a dental lab, working from a model provided by the doctor. This is usually an irreversible process, because it's necessary to remove a small amount of enamel from your teeth to accommodate the shell.
The doctor may recommend that you avoid some foods and beverages that may stain or discolor your veneers such as coffee, tea or red wine. Sometimes a veneer might chip or fracture. But for many people the results are more than worth it.