Tag Archives: teeth whitening

Teeth Whitening 101

Have you been wanting to brighten those not-so-pearly whites but don’t know which whitening method to choose?  Discussed below are different methods of teeth whitening and drawbacks and benefits of each type. The three main types of whitening are:

1.       In-office whitening such as ZOOM or Pola Office

2.       Custom fitted bleaching trays with prescription strength gel

3.       White Strips or other over the counter systems

1. With in-office whitening, the idea is to jumpstart your natural shade to a brighter white in a short period of time.  Usually 1-2 hrs in the dental chair.  The gums and soft tissue are protected with a barrier and the dental hygienist or assistant will apply the gel 3-4 times during your visit.  This in-office whitening process can be accompanied by a bright light that is placed close to your mouth. Some systems, such as ZOOM claim the light further activates its gel, but most systems do not use a light. Usually coupled with this treatment are custom take home trays and gel to finish the whitening process over the next couple of weeks to get you to your brightest shade.  Patients pay a premium to get this accelerated whitening.  Office prices for in-office and custom take home whitening can range from $400-$800 or more.  Remember that you are paying to get a brighter smile as fast as possible, under the supervision of the dentist’s office.

2. Custom fitted white trays can be coupled with the in-office whitening procedure, or be a method all in their own.  Impressions of your upper and lower teeth are taken and then soft custom trays are made from the molds.  The take home prescription strength gel is applied to the inside of the trays and they are worn for 40mins-1hr daily for about two weeks.  During that time, you may experience some sensitivity.  Anti-sensitivity toothpastes are recommended and if sensitivity becomes too severe discontinue usage until your symptoms subside.  After 2-4 weeks you are going to be as bright as your teeth can be.  Depending upon diet, smoking, etc. everyone is different with how long your new brighter smile will last.  Some people’s newly whitened smiles can last 6-12 months without a touch-up. Keep your trays and if you ever need a whitening touch-up, new gel can be purchased at your dentist’s office.  Custom trays made at your dental office and your initial supply of gel can range in cost from $250-$500.  Additional gel for touch-ups is around $50.

3. The last method of whitening is white strips and other systems you can find at your local pharmacy.  Crest is the most well-known brand, and they have several levels of whitening from professional strength available only in a dental office to lower strengths available over the counter.  This is the most cost friendly form of teeth whitening available to patients.  Ranging in price from $25-$60 it’s easy to see why these systems are enticing.  The problems with these over the counter systems include sensitivity, like other systems, and chemical burns to the gums.  Because these strips are not custom fitted, the gel can seep onto the gums and traumatize the gums.  The gums will turn a white shade where affected and can slough with pain after use.  I don’t discourage patients from using white strips because for most, they are very cost effective.  They can get you to your whitest natural shade over time, so they do work, but it can take more than one treatment (purchase) to get you there.

So whatever method you may choose, just realize what you are getting.  In-office is brighter in 2hrs.  Custom trays are brighter in 2 weeks, and over the counter strips are brighter in about 1-2 months.  Also, you go from complete supervision in a dentist’s care, to do-it-yourself with no supervision from a dentist.  Money and time frame are the deciding factors for most patients, but now that you are informed get those yellowed chompers back to bright.