There are many reasons why teeth become stained or discolored: tobacco use; dark liquids like wine, coffee, tea, cola; staining foods like blueberries, pasta sauces, beets, etc. Age is also a significant factor. Multiple over-the-counter whitening options include take-home strips, bleaching toothpastes and whitening floss (be aware of possible presence of fluoride), and take-home bleaching gels.
There are three main professional whitening services available
1. Professional Strength Whitening Strips ($40 Sheer White Strips)
Over the counter whitening strips are available online and in almost any drug store. They work. The issue is that as soon as saliva comes in contact with the bleach, it stops working. To get the most out of the strips, place them on and make a conscious effort to not talk, move your mouth much, or play with the strips with your tongue. If you can leave them on for the full amount of suggested time, then some whitening of the teeth will occur. Our professional strength strips are stronger in concentration, delivering more whitening power, but more importantly, are designed for better adherence to the teeth to block out the saliva a little better than the over the counter version. While our professional strips are an upgrade over what you can find in stores, they are not perfect.
2. Customized Whitening Trays ($325 - Future refill kits are $35)
The next level up in teeth whitening would be our customizable whitening trays. The customize trays are built to form fit around your teeth, and solves the issue of saliva deactivating the bleach. We take impressions of your mouth to create identical stone models of your teeth. Our assistants then meticulously build custom wells on the outside of the stone teeth to create a pocket for the bleach to sit on the teeth. Once the models are finalized, the customs trays are created with our state-of-the-art night guard machine. The entire process typically takes 2-3 days to generate the customized trays. You will receive the trays, the models, and a started pack of professional whitening gel syringes.
The whitening gel syringes makes it easy to place a tiny drop of bleach gel into the individual wells of the custom tray (we will help demonstrate this for you when you pick up the trays). The trays are then worn for 15 to 30 minutes every day until the desired level of brightness is reached. If you experience sensitivity you have full control. Wear the trays for less time each day or alternate every other day. Compliance is key. The rate at which your teeth brighten will vary according to such factors as body chemistry, age, enamel composition, and whitening history. Dietary restriction during bleaching will speed the process but is not required (see below).
3. Light Activated Bleaching (ZOOM) ($800 - no longer available)
The third level of whitening is no longer offered at Meetinghouse Dental Care due to the extreme sensitivity it was causing with many patients. The light activated whitening is no different in effectiveness than the customized whitening trays options. The difference came in the time it took to achieve desired whitening effect. The custom trays typically takes two to four weeks. Color changes are gradual and sustainable. The light activated whitening takes three hours in a dental chair and attempts to change the shade of the teeth multiple degrees of white in a very short amount of time, commonly resulting in sensitivity. The only time where this option may be useful, is if there is an event happening (like a wedding) and the teeth needed to be white right away. For most individuals, the customized trays is the way to go!
"Natural" Whitening Options
First and foremost, it should be said that professional whitening options are not toxic. The gel is a concentrated hydrogen peroxide mixture that is strategically held on the enamel wall for a specified amount of time. Pores are opened to bleach / whiten the enamel wall. Any sensitivity is caused by the temporary opening on the enamel pores.
We have seen multiple "natural" teeth whitening suggestions floating around the internet. Some are good. Some, not so much. Regardless, most of them deliver false promises. Natural whitening options, like brushing with charcoal powder / tooth paste are effective at removing plaque build up and surface stain, bringing your teeth back to what ever color they were originally. For some, this can result in a noticeable increase in enamel brightness. These options are great for maintenance, but the only true way to increase the whiteness shade of your teeth is to use one of the above mentioned whitening options.
General Information Regarding Whitening
Veneers, Crowns, Bonding
If you have veneers, crowns, or bonded teeth that show when you smile, whitening trays will not change the original color of the porcelain, ceramic, or bonding (although whitening will remove stains accumulated on the surfaces). After your whitening session, natural teeth will stand out as noticeably brighter. Plan to wait a week after the final bleaching session - for the pellicle of the teeth to regenerate and for the new color to settle - before beginning replacement dentistry.
Recent Professional Cleaning
Your teeth should be professionally cleaned before you begin to whiten. Any plaque/tartar on your teeth will block the whitening process.
NOTE: If you have never bleached and you are older, it may take as long as two weeks (sometimes longer) before you begin to see results. Don't give up. You too can have white teeth! Once teeth have been conditioned and the whitening process has finally begun, teeth lighten quickly. Wear the trays until you achieve the color you want!
Your rate of color regression will depend upon your dietary habits. Coffee, teas, colas, and red wine stain teeth. Smoking, in particular, stains teeth. Color regression can be slowed – regardless of the whitening system used – with monthly tray whitening maintenance and by daily use of a sonic toothbrush.
Note: Regardless of which system you choose, the time it takes to reach your ideal shade will vary according to factors such as body chemistry, bleaching history, age, and enamel composition. Compliance with recommended tray wear will be key.
Bleaching can cause sensitivity for certain individuals. Do not worry, sensitivity in no way signifies any damage to the tooth. Bleaching opens up enamel pours to accomplish whitening. The open pores will increase sensations to air/wind and cold. Sensitivity feels like tingling or the sharp twang you get when you bite into ice cream. If you experience sensitivity, the twangs will be random, and sensitivity will come and go. There is no way to predict if you will experience sensitivity. If you do experience sensitivity, it may not occur until after the procedure, and it may last as briefly as a few hours or as long as 24 hours. If you notice any sensitivity that occurs while bleaching, feels more like burning, and does not come and go, it is almost certain too much bleach was added to the tray and the gums are burning. Again, do not be alarmed. Take the tray out and while the bleach from the gums and place less gel in the trays before placement. The gums may turn white from the gel (hydrogen peroxide). This burnt appearance lasts a few hours but then returns to normal color and feeling.
* See Dietary Restrictions below.
You can follow dietary restrictions if you wish to maximize whitening outcome (special event, for instance). The oxygen in the bleach that activates the bleaching process also removes microscopic debris from between the crystals of tooth structure. During bleaching and for at least 24 hours after the final session, the pores of the teeth are cleansed and opened. Stay away from staining foods and drinks. To the greatest extent possible, plan a non-colored diet for yourself until the protective coating of the teeth regenerates. If you eat or drink anything that will stain a white shirt, you will stain your teeth. Do not use lipstick or colored lip balm or gloss for 24 hours after bleaching. Do not use colored toothpaste or mouthwash. Do not smoke. If you must smoke, you should smoke as infrequently as possible but not at all is best.
Recommended foods and beverages include white fish, white turkey, white chicken, white pork, white tuna/lobster/crab, mashed white potatoes or baked white potatoes without the skin, cauliflower, white squash, white onions, peeled zucchini, pasta with butter or white sauce (not tomato sauce), white rice, oatmeal, non-colored cereals, bananas, apples without the skin, pears, white cheeses, cottage cheese, white yogurt, white ice cream or pudding, white rolls, water, milk, 7-Up, Sprite. Be creative!
Again: no lipstick, no coffee, no tea, no colored sodas, no red wine, no blueberries, and NO SMOKING.
If you feel you must drink a staining beverage, it may help to keep the beverage off the outer surface of the teeth by carefully drinking through a straw. This is NOT, however, recommended and may slow the whitening process. Using a sonic toothbrush immediately after eating, drinking (or smoking) will also help.
What Happens After Treatment?
The same external factors that caused tooth discoloration in the first place can restain teeth. Use your whitening trays for touch-ups as needed!
NOTE: Postpone whitening in certain circumstances.
Pregnant or lactating women are advised against bleaching treatment.
Parents are advised against seeking bleaching treatment for children under age 16.
Whitening is contra-indicated in the context of tooth decay or gum disease.
Whitening is contra-indicated in the presence of amalgam fillings; bleaching, when in direct contact with the filling, oxidizes the mercury component of amalgams.
Thank you for whitening with us!
I want to tell you how happy I am using the bleach whitening kit; it makes my teeth the whitest! It's so easy and time convenient! It only takes a half hour - I just apply to trays and watch TV or pack a suitcase. (I usually whiten when I look forward to meeting someone out of town.) Sometimes people wonder if I was just born with white teeth (because they know I drink a lot of coffee) or eat health food (not!). Anyway, I use the bleach whitening kit whenever I'm ready for white teeth, especially for last-minute get-togethers. Thank you, Meetinghouse Dental Care. You're the best! I enjoy visits! You're very friendly and caring. You always explain how you will care for my teeth. I'm very happy, and that is why I smile a lot! Thank you!
Bruce Sivesind, Hatboro PA
I am a self-proclaimed whitening junkie with extremely sensitive teeth. I have been begging Dr. Lou and Laura to make my teeth whiter, but everything we have tried so far gives me excruciating pain (ok, well maybe not excruciating, but definitely pain). I have my very own custom-made trays which fit perfectly over my unwhitened teeth, but every time I add any type of bleaching agent and place that tray in my mouth, it is just a mattter of time before the old tingling starts and turns into real pain real soon. I have not even been able to tolerate normal everyday whitening toothpastes without experiencing the same old discomfort. But then, glory of glories, Barb Trovato recommended that I try something called MI Paste in my trays for a half hour every other day alternating with the bleaching agent also for a half hour. I actually sat there with my first application of bleaching agent literally waiting for the pain to start. It did not. I have been using this procedure for several weeks now and have honestly not had a problem. I feel like a new woman. My teeth are slowing getting whiter, and I couldn't be happier. If your teeth are as sensitve as mine and want them to be whiter, try this regimen - you're going to love it - I do!
Barbara Chappell, West Chester PA