Teeth Whitening – What You Need to Know

Dr. Lee Ostler
Nov 22, 2016

The popularity of teeth whitening has become something of a phenomenon around the world. What at first started out as a tightly controlled in-office professionally applied cosmetic procedure, is now widely available in many over-the-counter (OTC) products, and in most dental offices today.

The strong media and cultural spotlight on white teeth has brought with it an abundance of good information as well as some mis-information. Contrary to popular marketing there is no such thing as a fast over-the-counter or one-visit bleaching technique that whitens teeth to their very whitest. Teeth vary from person to person in their ability to become whiter, and not all bleaching attempts or results are predictable.

What many fail to remember is that once teeth are whitened they will continue to slowly darken, mainly due to the effects of aging, dental habits and diet. Dark teeth are dark for a number of reasons, including: age, genetics, diet, hygiene practices, smoking, coffee, wine, medications, and soda pop consumption.

There are many whitening procedures that will yield beautiful results. Teeth whitening or “bleaching” reverses the natural darkening in teeth. It has become one of the simplest and most popular cosmetic procedures in dentistry today. This revolutionary dental technique effectively provides a fast and easy way for patients to achieve a beautiful white smile.

Teeth whitening methods generally are divided into 1)- non-supervised, and 2)- dentist supervised. Non-supervised methods include a variety of over-the-counter products which can be purchased on the internet, in grocery stores, at mall kiosks, etc. Dentist supervised methods include using custom trays to be worn at home, and bright lights or lasers used in the dental office to enhance and speed the whitening process.

Dentist supervised at-home techniques using custom trays require more time but often deliver superior results. When custom trays are combined with in-office power bleaching methods using bright lights, the whitening effect is even more profound – the so called “deep bleaching” technique described below.

Numerous over-the-counter brands have also become available. Being OTC products, they are limited in their degree of strength. Since they are awkward to apply and hold in place they suffer from retentiveness to hold them in place on the teeth. While OTC methods lack the success and whitening power that professional versions have, they have nonetheless educated the marketplace and can be a good “touch-up” technique.

So, a little whitening and presto, you’ve got more confidence, more laughter and most important, more reasons to smile. Teeth whitening isn’t for everybody and it must be performed properly to be successful. Certain discolorations are very difficult to correct, in which case patients will benefit from porcelain veneers.

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