In-Office Teeth Whitening FAQ
Although our teeth are incredibly hard, their outer surface is quite porous, similar to that of a honeycomb. In a tooth’s most natural and untainted state, that honeycomb surface catches the light and allows it to shine all the way through the tooth, giving off a perfectly pearlescent sheen that makes the smile look bright white. But as we go through life, those same honeycombs also catch and lock in all kinds of particles from the foods and drinks we consume, making our teeth appear a yellow or brown color.
Luckily, there are many options available to make our teeth white again. One of those options is in-office whitening. Learn the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
What are the pros of in-office teeth whitening?
It’s quick, it’s safe and it’s effective. Plus, your dental professional will be able to use the most concentrated whitening agent available while making sure it is applied correctly.
What does in-office whitening entail?
To start, your dentist will first clear any plaque or residue from the surface of your teeth to ensure maximum exposure to the whitening agent. Once your teeth are clean, the next step is to make sure they stay dry for the duration of the procedure, and this is done by using retractors to keep the lips, cheeks and tongue away from the teeth. Next your dentist will adhere a barrier to your gum line to prevent the whitening agent from irritating your gum tissue. Finally, your dentist will apply the whitening agent – usually consisting of carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide – directly to your teeth for approximately 30 to a maximum of 60 minutes, or until the desired shade of white has been reached.
How long does in-office teeth whitening take?
In-office whitening is the quickest whitening method because all it usually takes is a single hour-long office visit to see immediate results. By the end of your visit, your teeth will be noticeably whiter; although sometimes, two or more visits are needed in order to see dramatic results.
What shades of teeth are most effectively whitened?
Yellow-brown shades are most easily whitened, while grayer shades are more difficult. On a one to 16 scale, where one is the lightest and 16 is the darkest, in-office teeth whitening can brighten your smile by as many as eight or nine shades.
Can you whiten crowns, bridges and veneers?
No. Porcelain and other dental materials typically do not pick up stains and therefore do not need to be whitened. On the other hand, if you have a crown put in before whitening your teeth, your teeth will get lighter while the crown stays the same color. So if you plan to whiten your teeth, you may need to consider updating your dental work, or else reconsider whether whitening is right for you.
Is it possible to make your teeth snow white?
Yes. Typically, an in-office whitening procedure will take your teeth to the shade that you, personally, would have had if you’d never consumed any of the things in life that stain your teeth. “But if you just bleach your teeth constantly,” says Barry Bartusiak, DMD, of Washington, Pa., “and if you can tolerate that constantly – because your teeth will get a little bit sensitive if you do it that often – you could have absolute snow-white teeth, no doubt.”
How much does it cost?
The cost of in-office whitening tends to vary by region. Typically, in the mid-American states, one session costs about $500, whereas on the coasts and in larger cities, it may cost upwards of $800 to $1,000.
Is in-office whitening safe?
Yes. This is actually the safest of all methods because it is done in a controlled environment, and it is performed by an experienced professional who will be sure to take the proper precautions in protecting the rest of your mouth from the bleaching agent.
Whitening, in general, is a safe procedure all around. “There have been no known side effects that cause problems to your teeth,” says Dr. Bartusiak.
Is in-office whitening painful?
In-office whitening treatments are generally not painful. However, for someone with already sensitive teeth, or for a patient with untreated cavities or gum problems, the procedure may produce a bit of discomfort. It is highly recommended to get any dental problems fixed before trying any whitening treatment because the peroxide can aggravate those problems.
Are there any side effects associated with in-office teeth whitening?
In some patients, whitening may cause the teeth to become extra sensitive. But most of the time, that is only temporary, and normal sensitivity is restored within one to three days.
How long does in-office whitening last?
Tooth whitening is not a permanent procedure, so it will not last forever; but it should last a while. Typically, the results will last for a year or more. However, the frequency with which an individual will need to go back to the dentist to have the procedure re-performed will depend on that person’s lifestyle and habits. A person who smokes or consumes a lot of heavily pigmented foods and drinks – like coffee, tea, juice, red wine, yellow mustard, sauces, berries and some sweets – may need to have his teeth re-whitened in as little as a few months.
On the other hand, someone who stays away from all of those things can go as long as three to five years before needing a touchup. Additionally, brushing regularly with a whitening toothpaste can help keep your teeth whiter longer.