A common procedure that I do is tooth whitening and it is one of my favorite things to do. Most of my patients desire whiter teeth because whiter teeth look better than brown teeth obviously. It is great seeing a patient whiten their teeth for a few months and see real results and have them be excited by those results. While it is not an instant process and a patient will not see overnight results, I find that the patients who routinely whiten have a smile that they are proud of. I think it is important for patients to understand the basics of whitening as well as regular whitening vs deep whitening.
Whitening is concentrated hydrogen peroxide gel that is placed on a soft plastic tray that is molded to your mouth. The tray helps prevent saliva from touching the whitening gel because if saliva touches the gel it will break it down into water and oxygen. The tray also prevents the gel from touching the gums as it can cause the gums to whiten and be sensitive. The biggest issue that I see with routine whitening is that it can irritate the dental nerve slightly and cause cold sensitivity. In cases like this, I recommend whitening every other night or every third night to allow the dental nerve to calm down along with brushing with sensitive toothpaste like Colgate Sensitive or Sensodyne. The biggest benefit though for whitening is that it helps keep the mouth clean by killing the bacteria in the mouth. My patients who whiten on a regular basis have a lower incidence of cavities and periodontal disease. Hydrogen peroxide gel was originally invented during World War I to help American troops who suffered with trench mouth. The bacteria which caused soldiers to have painful gums was killed by the gel, and dentists noticed that the teeth were whiter when the men returned from war. The other great thing about whitening is that it is not possible to over whiten the teeth. Teeth will only get so white naturally and if a patient feels that the teeth are too white, if that person stops whitening, the teeth will darken back to the appropriate color in a month or two.
The most common type of whitening that I do is regular whitening. With regular whitening, I use one of the lowest dose hydrogen peroxide gels on the market because I find it works better than the stronger ones because a patient is able to wear it longer due to much less sensitivity. With the weaker gels, a patient can wear the trays all night and experience little to no sensitivity which makes patients more compliant with the regiment. With the regular whitening, I find that one treatment typically removes between two to four weeks of staining on teeth. This is important because if a person has stain that has been on the teeth for 15 years, it might take one year of nightly whitening to get the teeth back to the natural white where they started at. However, the wonderful part of whitening is that after the correct amount of whitening is done, it is easy to keep up. I recommend that all of my patients who what to maintain their tooth color whiten their teeth once every 14 days. If the patient is a heavy coffee or wine drinker, then whitening every 7 days will keep the same level of brightness.
The second type of whitening that I do is deep whitening. Deep whitening is a faster way of whitening than regular whitening and uses a gel that is five times as strong as regular whitening combined with trays that are built by lab technicians who only make whitening trays all day long and use better equipment than what is used for regular trays. This is important because the better built the tray is, the better the whitening will work. The biggest concern with deep whitening is sensitivity as generally the stronger the whitening gel is, the more it irritates the tooth nerve. The main reason why stronger whiteners are more irritating is that they need more preservatives to keep them shelf stable. I use a product called Kor for my deep whitening cases which has far fewer preservatives but must be kept in the fridge at all times otherwise it will break down. The deep whitening is used for my patients who need to have the whitening done quickly or who have done the regular whitening in the past and have not gotten good results. Generally I will recommend the deep whitening be done for five to six weeks and then after switch to regular whitening which will keep up the whitening albeit at a slower pace. Afterwards, I will recommend that the patient use either the deep whitening gels once a month or the regular whitening gels once per week to keep everything looking nice and white.
Whitening is a common and safe esthetic procedure and can help teeth shine brightly for a fraction of the cost of crowns or veneers. The biggest part of whitening is keeping up with it after the first round and to keep my patient’s teeth white, I give every person a complimentary vial of whitening at each dental cleaning. Given that whitening also helps kill harmful bacteria in the mouth, I feel that most of my patients can benefit from tooth whitening. If you are interested in teeth whitening, please call us at 504-392-5104 and we will help you out.