Almost all whitening methods are similar in concept, but some are much more effective because of the way the whitening material is delivered to the teeth. Another contributing factor is the concentration of the material, which is why less potent over-the-counter whitening systems usually don’t give patients the results they are hoping for.
The two main methods of professional whitening are tray whitening and in-office whitening. In tray whitening, an impression is taken and a custom tray is made for the patient. Then, a supply of whitening gel is given to the patient and he/she wears the tray for a few hours each day (techniques differ) for a period of time until an acceptable result is achieved. Sensitivity of the teeth is a normal side-effect of this whitening method and is almost always transitional.
Side Effects of Teeth Whitening
Whitening is completely safe! The only real risks associated with the use of these products are teeth sensitivity and gingival irritation, which should cease upon discontinuation of use. If you’ve experienced sensitivity in the past, it’s a good idea to begin using sensitivity toothpaste (we like Sensodyne) 1-2 weeks before you begin using your whitening product. Varying the duration and frequency of treatment, while often resulting in a longer whitening process, can also help keep sensitivity at bay.
How Teeth Whitening Works
All whitening products use Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) in some form, be it pure or in a less broken down state known as Carbamide Peroxide, to achieve their goal. This oxides the molecules that help to form stains under the surface of your enamel. The stronger the concentration of H2O2, the faster your teeth will whiten.
Not everything will whiten equally. We typically see the best results on yellow/brown extrinsic staining. This kind of staining works from the outside in, and usually comes from things like smoking, red wine, and coffee. Intrinsic stains and gray staining tend to be less receptive to whitening. Also immune are any restorations your dentist has performed. Whatever color those fillings are, that’s where they’ll stay!
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