What is teeth whitening?
If mouth rinses, toothpastes, and even at-home whitening strips are still leaving you with a lackluster smile, it might be time to leave the fate of your pearly whites to a pro. Professional teeth whitening can significantly brighten your chompers in less than an hour — and to a greater degree than at-home efforts can. Sound too good to be true? It’s not — but you will want to read the risks, costs, and other FAQs to determine whether the treatment is right for you.
What concerns can it address?Luckily for those of us who guzzle coffee and red wine, professional whitening can treat yellow and brown stains on the enamel. That said, it can be difficult or take longer to address tooth darkness caused by injury.
How does professional teeth whitening work?Similar to at-home whitening strips, professional teeth whitening relies on hydrogen peroxide-based or carbamide peroxide-based gel to bleach tooth enamel. The difference between DIY kits and professional processes is the percentage of the active ingredient contained in the whitening substance. Professional whitening has a much higher concentration (usually around 15 to 38 percent, compared to a maximum of 10 percent for DIY), which allows for whitening that is more intense and much faster than at-home options. That said, a higher level of the bleaching substance poses more risk for tooth sensitivity and/or damage to your enamel (which is why you’ll only find these levels in professional in-office treatments).
Does it hurt?Even though it seems like gel would be perfectly comfortable (especially compared to dentist’s drills!), some people cite a sharp, zapping feeling during and/or after it is applied to their teeth. (This is a result of the hydrogen peroxide inducing sensitivity.) That said, any discomfort should dissipate within a few days post-whitening. If you’re prone to tooth sensitivity, you may be at higher risk for those tooth zaps.
How much does it cost?Depending on where you live and which brand of tooth whitening you use, a single session can range in the hundreds of dollars. Luckily, many modern-day tooth whitening options only require one treatment for optimal results. (Though for some, you may need up to six.) While it may sound pricey, the American Dental Association cites tooth bleaching as a "conservative and cost-effective" dental treatment for smile enhancement.
What are the risks?When performed properly by a professional, teeth whitening poses very few known risks. Gum sensitivity is common, as is the aforementioned “zapping” feeling. Enamel erosion is possible, though extremely rare, and usually caused by over-bleaching. It’s crucial to whiten teeth only as much as your provider recommends (usually once a year). Too many bleaching appointments put your teeth at risk for permanent damage.
Is it right for me?If you want whiter teeth, you might just be a candidate for professional whitening. That said, it is easier to whiten yellow-tinted teeth than brown and grey-tinted teeth. Additionally, false teeth (including caps, veneers, and bonding) will not react to whitening treatments.
What outcome can I expect after treatment?Unlike at-home whitening treatments, the results from professional teeth whitening treatments are virtually instant. The degree of coloration change will vary from person to person. Be sure to talk with your specialist about what kind of results you can expect.