Just about everyone can have their teeth whitened. However, it’s always a good idea to speak with your dentist first, as you may want to put off teeth whitening if you have any dental procedures coming up or if you have stronger-than-normal tooth sensitivity. It’s possible your dentist will want to troubleshoot other issues before whitening.
Do whitening treatments work better on certain types of stains?
The color of your teeth will play a role in how well the teeth whitening treatment works. Teeth with yellow or yellow-ish stains tend to respond well to teeth whitening; brown-ish stains respond to teeth whitening, but not as well as yellow stains do; and gray or purple-hued teeth may not respond to teeth whitening at all.
Stains that are blue-gray are the results of tetracycline, which is difficult to lighten even with bleaching products. You may require as many as six months of at-home whitening treatments or a series of in-office whitening appointments to lighten your teeth.
Additionally, whitening results will vary from person to person, even if they have the same type of stains. In addition to stain color, the degree of whiteness you can achieve with teeth whitening also has to do with the tooth’s condition, the nature of the stain, how long the treatment is used for, and the amount of bleach used in the treatment.
If you have very dark stains or stains that won’t respond well to teeth whitening, there are other procedures to consider, such as bonding, crowns or veneers. Speak with your doctor to come up with the right treatment plan for you.
Is teeth whitening safe?
Tooth whitening is a safe treatment, and you can further protect your enamel with calcium sulfate and fluoride. Ask your dentist about protecting your teeth prior to your whitening treatment.
The bleaching agents and whitening treatments that you’ll get with an in-office procedure are typically ADA-approved, which means they’ve reached specific guidelines for effectiveness and safety. You may also be able to get an at-home whitening kit from your dentist that’s ADA-approved.
There aren’t over-the-counter whitening treatment kits that are ADA-approved, because the ADA feels that a professional consultation with a dentist is a prerequisite for safe and effective teeth whitening. It’s also important to note that laser whitening is not yet approved by the ADA. However, there are some over-the-counter whitening toothpastes that do have the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
Some people are concerned that the ingredients in tooth whitening products are toxic. Most teeth whitening treatments include hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide and urea, which should be used with caution. If you follow the instructions on the package or that your dentist gives you, and if you don’t over-use teeth whitening products for several years, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Note that the whitening treatments with an ADA Seal of Acceptance have 10% carbamide peroxide (for at-home products dispensed by dentists) and 35% hydrogen peroxide (for in-office treatments).
Also keep in mind that some manufacturers don’t seek out an ADA Seal of Acceptance in the first place. The ADA program is voluntary, and it requires a time and financial commitment from the manufacturer. A product that doesn’t have an ADA Seal of Acceptance isn’t necessarily unsafe or ineffective, but it’s difficult to be assured that non-ADA-approved products are safe and effective. Also, since teeth whitening treatments are not drugs, they’re not regulated by the FDA.
What are the side effects of teeth whitening?
While the risks of tooth whitening are low, there are two normal side effects of teeth whitening: mild irritation of the mouth’s soft tissues and gums, and tooth sensitivity. Soft tissue and gum irritation is often the result of a poorly fitting mouthpiece tray, and not the bleaching agent itself. This is a temporary condition and you should start to feel more comfortable in approximately three days after treatment has ended. Tooth sensitivity may occur during the first stages of your whitening treatment.
With my teeth be permanently sensitive after I have them whitened?
Having some tooth sensitivity following a whitening treatment is normal, and it should go away on its own after a couple of days. If you had tooth sensitivity prior to whitening, it may worsen for a couple of days following treatment, and then return to its normal sensitivity level. If it persists, speak to your dentist.
How can I reduce tooth sensitivity?
There are a few things you can do to ease the tooth sensitivity related to teeth whitening:
- Wear the tray for a shorter duration. For example, if you usually do an hour-long session, try doing two 30-minute sessions instead, with a break in between.
- Take a break from whitening for up to three days. This will give your teeth some time to adjust to the bleaching agent and the whitening process.
- See if your dentist can provide you with a product that contains a high amount of fluoride. Fluoride will re-mineralize your teeth, which could make them less sensitive. You’ll want to apply the fluoride treatments using a tray and wear it for four minutes before using the whitening treatment.
- Use toothpaste that’s specially made for sensitive teeth. These types of toothpaste have potassium nitrate, which is soothing to nerve endings.
Is teeth whitening bad for my enamel?
No, there will not be any permanent damage to the enamel ¬– or to any other part of your teeth ¬– if you have your teeth whitened. However, to ensure your enamel is protected, it’s recommended to use teeth whitening products that only include 10% carbamide peroxide.
Will the teeth whitening treatment affect my crowns, fillings or veneers?
Typically, a tooth whitening treatment has little-to-zero effect on crowns or porcelain inlays/onlays. However, it is possible that it will reduce the bond between the enamel and the composite materials for a temporary period of time. This is why you should talk to your dentist before starting a tooth whitening program.
Again, like with the effect of teeth whitening treatments on enamel, it’s best to stick with products that are only 10% carbamide peroxide. It’s also important to understand that while there won’t be damage caused to your dental restorations, they won’t whiten, either. It’s possible that your dentist will suggest replacing your current dental work to match the whitened color of the rest of your teeth.
Will the teeth whitening treatment give me nerve damage?
Tooth whitening treatments have not been show to do damage to a tooth’s nerve, and it seems as though tooth whitening patients do not end up needing a root canal for any reason related to the whitening process.
Do whitening toothpastes really work?
You may notice a difference in the color of your teeth after regular use of a whitening toothpaste, but it’s important to note that these toothpastes only remove surface stains ¬– they don’t change the actual color of your tooth. While you may notice whitening results, your teeth aren’t technically being whitened.
How long will the tooth whitening treatment last?
Tooth whitening typically lasts for anywhere from six months to two years, and how long your whitening treatment lasts depends on the foods you eat and your teeth hygiene. To make the whitening treatment last for as long as possible, avoid foods and beverages that will stain your teeth, including coffee and red wine. You’ll also want to refrain from smoking, which can stain teeth. It’s also good to get into the habit of brushing after meals so that you can get rid of any tooth-staining residue.
What do I need to do after my treatment?
After your in-office teeth whitening treatment, your dentist will likely ask to see you in a few days so that he can check on your gum health. If you’re using at-home whitening treatments that were provided by your dentist, he may want to check on the health of your teeth and gums after one week and then again two weeks after that.
When should I get a teeth whitening touch-up?
Pay attention to how the color of your teeth changes. If you eat and drink a lot of stain-causing foods and beverages, you’ll notice the color start to fade. If you used a less-abrasive type of treatment, like at-home whitening, you may want to do a touch-up in as little as one month. Or, if you used a more intense treatment, like an in-office procedure, and you’re careful with what you eat and drink, you may be able to wait a year or even longer.
What can I do to maintain my whitened teeth?
There are several steps you can take to maintain your newly whitened teeth and push off a follow-up treatment for as long as possible.
- Don’t eat or drink items that will stain your teeth, and avoid smoking, which will also stain your teeth. If you are going to drink staining beverages, like coffee, use a straw so that the liquid goes past the front of your teeth, reducing how much of a stain it will cause.
- If you do consume a food or drink that can cause stains, brush your teeth as soon as possible afterwards. It may be helpful to carry a travel-sized toothbrushing kit with you so that you can brush when you’re away from home.
- Practice good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth a minimum of two times daily and flossing daily to get rid of plaque.
- Use a whitening toothpaste one to two times a week to get rid of surface stains and to ward off more advanced yellowing. (The rest of the week, use a regular, non-whitening toothpaste.)
- Book touchup treatments, which are “mini” versions of full-on teeth whitening treatments. Based on your whitening method and what you consume on a regular basis, you may want to get a touch-up every six months, every year or every two years. If you smoke or drink stain-causing drinks often, you may need a touch-up sooner.
How much does teeth whitening cost?
The type of tooth whitening treatment you choose will determine its price. Typically, over-the-counter whitening products and kits can cost $20 or less. In-office procedures may cost as much as $1,000, but the price usually falls between $300 and $800 depending on your specific needs and your dentist’s pricing. An at-home teeth whitening kit provided by your doctor is another option, and they usually cost between $300 and $600.
Speak to your dentist about what your insurance covers and if there’s any financing available, but keep in mind that most insurance policies will not cover the cost of a teeth whitening treatment.
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