What is Whitening
Products and Cost
Results and Maintenance
When to Whiten
External Teeth Whitening
External teeth whitening procedures whiten teeth from the outside in. This is the most common form of whitening used and is generally for extrinsic and mild intrinsic stains. External teeth whitening options include in-office whitening, home whitening kits given by the dentist, over-the-counter whitening kits, and whitening toothpastes.
Laser Tooth Whitening (In-office whitening)
Examples: Britesmile, Zoom
If you want the fastest whitening in the least amount of time, then laser tooth whitening is the option for you. Laser tooth whitening is done in a dental office setting and the procedure usually takes about one hour and involves first protecting your gums with a special gel that is painted on. The dentist then applies a relatively high concentration of hydrogen peroxide whitening gel to your teeth. Sometimes, a special light or laser is used to “activate” the gel, hence the term laser tooth whitening. The gel will typically stay on your teeth for about 15-20 minutes. Then it is removed and the procedure is repeated up to two more times.
Home Whitening Kits Given by the Dentist
Examples: Crest Whitestrips Supreme, Zoom Weekender, White and Brite, Opalescense
If you choose to whiten your teeth by using a whitening kit given to you by your dentist, your dentist will probably take molds of your teeth to make you custom bleaching trays, which resemble thin plastic mouthguards. The custom trays ensure maximum contact of peroxide whitening gel on your teeth and minimum gel on your gums. You will be instructed on where to put the whitening gel on the trays and how much to put on.
Cost: $100-$300 for upper or lower teeth; $200-$600 for upper and lower teeth
Depending on the concentration of hydrogen peroxide gel or carbamide peroxide gel used, your dentist may have you wear the trays from 30 minutes to overnight for a period of one to two weeks or until you run out of whitening gel. Results from at-home whitening kits can be just as good as laser tooth whitening in the office, but you will see slower results due to the lower concentrations of peroxide whitening gel used for at-home whitening.
Over-the-Counter Whitening Kits
Examples: Crest Whitestrips, Rembrandt Whitening Strips, whitening gels
Over-the-counter (OTC) whitening kits typically consist of a low-concentration carbamide peroxide whitening gel (lower concentration than at-home whitening gels) and a premade stock tray. Other over-the-counter options can also be in the form of whitening strips. You use whitening strips by pressing them against your teeth. The strips stick to your teeth and deliver a pre-attached whitening gel. Whitening gels can also be applied directly to your teeth by brushes and "pens" and these products are sold OTC as well. One thing to note about OTC teeth whitening products is that because the whitening trays and strips are not custom made, they may not cover your teeth well, and so the peroxide gel may not contact your teeth evenly.
Unlike peroxide whitening gels which can chemically alter the extrinsic color of teeth, most whitening toothpastes contain only abrasive particles such as aluminum oxide, calcium carbonate, or silica to mechanically remove stains when brushing.
Unlike external whitening which brightens teeth from the outside in, internal whitening brightens teeth from the inside out. How do you whiten teeth from the inside out you may ask? Whitening the tooth internally involves drilling a hole to the pulp chamber, cleaning, sealing, and filling the root canal with a rubber-like substance, and placing a peroxide whitening gel into the pulp chamber so that the gel can work directly inside the tooth on the dentin layer. This procedure is typically reserved for a tooth that has had a history of trauma, leading to a single darker tooth.
Teeth Whitening Results>>
Dr. Yang is a Board Certified Orthodontist practicing in Antioch, California. Read more about Dr. Yang.