Tue 1 Dec 2009
There has been a lot of recent press about tooth whitening services that are done in the mall. I even saw a recent exposé on local news regarding these vendors. As far as I see it, these vendors, while promising great results, may be putting the public at risk.
The bottom line with these whitening kiosks is that they are not staffed or overseen by anyone trained in the dental health field. These services are administered without examination to determine if the person receiving the treatment is even a candidate for whitening, or has underlying oral health issues that make whitening ill-advised or even potentially harmful to the patient.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the safe administration/application of whitening products where it is deemed appropriate. That is why it is best to consult a trained dental health professional before embarking on a quest for a whiter, brighter smile. That being said, if whitening is appropriate, here is a little background about whitening materials and processes and ways to safely and effectively whitening your smile:
Nearly all whitening products will whiten teeth to a certain extent because they all have the same active ingredient, either carbamide or hydrogen peroxide. However, the percentage of the active ingredient in whitening products varies between what a dentist uses and what is contained in over-the-counter products.
Over-the-counter products (Crest White Strips, for example) contain about 5 percent or less of active whitening ingredients, whereas a dentist will use products that have 10 to 35 percent of active whitening ingredients. Because of this, store-bought whitening products may not be as effective and could take a longer time and require a larger quantity to achieve any significant results.
There are two different whitening systems used by a dentist. In-office whitening takes roughly 60 to 90 minutes per visit. A chemical solution is applied to the teeth and a special light may be used to help activate the bleaching agent. To complete the process, multiple visits may be required.
With at-home whitening, we produce a custom-fitted mouthguard that holds whitening gel. The mouthguard is worn during the day or at night, and the treatment period varies (generally 4-6 hours per day/night for 2-3 weeks).
Those who use the store-bought kits lose the benefit of a custom-made mouthguard to apply the gel, and results may not be uniform. Therefore, anyone with moderate to severe discoloration could be disappointed with the results of the store-bought kits. Patients with only mild, yellowing teeth, either due to age or food and beverage stains, may benefit from diligent use of a store-bought product.
Teeth may often be sensitive during the period when any type of whitening solution is used. In most cases, this sensitivity is temporary and should lessen or disappear once the treatment is finished.
Those who are thinking about whitening their teeth should understand that only natural enamel will whiten. This means that if you have had any type of restorative procedures done—such as tooth-colored fillings, bonding, crowns, or veneers on your teeth—those particular teeth will not whiten. Plus the restorations, which used to blend in very nicely with the previous shade of your teeth, will now appear much darker and distinct. This could result in additional dental work to fix the problem.
Basically, check with us before you decide which whitening product or system is right for you.
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