Teeth whitening (teeth bleaching)

A typical tooth whitening procedure whitens and brightens teeth that have been stained and discolored by years of coffee, tea, wine, smoking and certain foods. Tooth whitening involves the application of a bleaching gel to the enamel or outer surface of the teeth. A reaction occurs between the bleaching agent and the enamel which leads to the removal of stains and results in the enamel becoming a lighter shade hence attaining a whiter and brighter smile.

Teeth whitening procedure

Initially you will have a consultation with a Dentist to discuss the procedure, the risks and benefits involved and what to expect at the end. An examination of the teeth is also performed to make sure all the teeth being whitened are in good health and are free of any disease.

On the day of the whitening procedure the teeth are cleaned by the Dentist or Dental Hygienist to remove any superficial debris from them. The Dentist may also take pre-whitening photos to compare the difference before and after the procedure. The cheeks are then retracted and a protective coating is placed on the gums surrounding the teeth to also protect them from the whitening gel.

The whitening get is then applied to the teeth. A light (laser whitening) is then directed onto the whitening gel that initiates the whitening process. Protective eyewear must be worn by the patient and Dentist at all times. The light is applied to the teeth for 15 to 20 minutes depending on the type of whitening gel or system used. The gel is then removed from the teeth, a new coat of gel applied and the light reapplied. This cycle is usually carried out three times.

The teeth are then irrigated with water and a desensitizing agent is applied. The procedure usually takes up to 2 hours from intitial preparation to completion. A marked difference in the tooth shades is usually observed with some whitening systems claiming an increase in up to seven shades lighter of the teeth.

After your teeth whitening procedure

You are able to go back to work and continue with normal activities after the procedure. Some sensitivity can be experienced after the procedure especially to hot and cold drinks but this usually diminishes within a few days. Home products (gels) are prescribed to reduce the sensitivity.

The long term outcome

The longevity of the whitening depends on your lifestyle. If you continue drinking and eating substances that will stain your teeth then they will discolor faster than if you did not have such a diet. Home whitening kits are usually part of the whitening "package" where custom made bleaching trays are made and home tooth whitening products given for use after the procedure to maintain the whiteness achieved.

Teeth whitening risks

The main risk of the procedure is the sensitivity experienced after the procedure. Patients must be warned of this prior to the procedure and people who already have sensitive teeth are more prone to this than others.

The heat produced by the whitening light may also cause some discomfort to the teeth during the procedure and may cause “sunburn” of the lips. The application of sunscreen cream to the lips and their isolation minimizes this. The gums are prone to being bleached by the bleaching gel if not isolated adequately. This results in slight discomfort of the gums and may also lead to small ulceration of the gum. This usually subsides within a few days.

Teeth whitening cost

The cost of the teeth whitening procedure varies depending on the whitening system used and the practice it is carried out in. Typically, teeth whitening costs between $950 to $1300.

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