Tooth whitening or bleaching, can usually erase stains and discoloration that occur over time
Professional whitening (in-office or at home) can make your teeth up to seven shades whiter. Your dentist will show you “shade cards” that are similar to those used for choosing paint. You can choose which one is best for you.
If you use an over-the-counter product at home, choose carefully to ensure it is safe, effective and reliable. For example, you can look for a product accepted by the American Dental Association. Follow the directions carefully. Over-the-counter products will not produce the dramatic improvements you can get through a professional. Excess exposure to OTC bleaching products can cause sensitivity in your teeth.
There’s been a trend in recent years toward whiter, brighter teeth. The shades that were popular a few years ago seem somewhat dingy by comparison.
It is important to think about which shade most flatters you and not how white your teeth can get. Keep in mind that your habits also dictate how white your teeth will be. Your whitening results will last longer if you don’t smoke and don’t drink coffee or tea. Occasional touch-ups may be needed to maintain the shade you want. This should be done with professional direction.
For good results,in-office bleaching is best. Before starting a whitening program, your cosmetic dentist will determine the health of your teeth and mouth. He or she will remove any surface stains and deposits. Treatment will be customized to your particular needs. Your dentist also will advise you if you need to change your daily oral care routine, to help maintain the results.
Professional in-office whitening is also more convenient. This is because the bleaching agents are stronger than those in over-the-counter products. Your teeth will get much whiter in 60 to 90 minutes. Some people may need two or three visits. Others can get good results in a single session.
Some in-office treatments use a light to activate the whitening agent. This process is more efficient. Teeth can get many shades whiter using the light.
In-office whitening also avoids the use of trays, so you will not swallow any of the whitening agent.
You are unlikely to have any serious effects from whitening. However, some people feel mild tooth sensitivity after bleaching. Gums also can get irritated. A prescription fluoride gel can reduce the sensitivity, but most people don’t need it. The sensitivity usually goes away within a few days.
Irritation of gums or other soft tissues in the mouth is more of a problem with over-the-counter bleaching kits. That’s because the bleaching agents may leak around the edges of the mouthpiece.
Women should avoid tooth whitening during pregnancy. The effects of bleaching agents on fetal development are unknown.