Ask any patient what they would like to improve about their smile, and somewhere in the answer is whiter teeth. Everyone notices the perfect white smiles of the actors on TV, and most people would like to have that smile at a reasonable cost. Most of those smiles were made courtesy of porcelain veneers, or caps, that go over the front of the tooth. This procedure often requires the removal of some tooth structure, as well as a few thousand dollars. This is an excellent treatment, but many of my patients are looking for a more affordable alternative.
Tooth bleaching is a relatively simple concept. The first step is to remove the surface stains on the tooth through thorough cleaning, then adding a paste to the tooth with an active ingredient of Carbamide Peroxide, or Hydrogen Peroxide. This is the same chemical that bleaches hair, so as you can imagine, extreme caution needs to be taken to reduce the chances of bleaching or burning the gums, as well as sensitivity which is the most common complaint of tooth whitening procedures. The peroxide penetrates deep into the tooth and breaks up staines that hide beneath the surface of the tooth.
There are many methods to whiten your teeth. The dentist can do it in the office for 30-60 minutes for one or two treatments, the dentist can make a tray to take home which is filled with the gel and worn for a few hours or slept in, or you can purchase an over the counter option like Crest White Strips. Research shows that all have the same ability to whiten your teeth, except the home remedies take longer, and often have a higher chance of causing tooth and gum sensitivity. Your dentist has the ability to combat sensitivity by taking precautions before the procedure, as well as tailoring a regimen to decrease sensitivity after.
There are many options to achieve the perfect smile, but tooth whitening is one of the most cost effective and noticeable changes someone can make. Whatever method you choose to pursue, involve your dentist in the decision making process to ensure the effect is maximized, and the side effects are minimized.