Is Tooth Whitening for You?

The hot topic in the dental world these days is tooth whitening. The long and the short of it is that teeth whitening works. Virtually everyone who opts for this cosmetic treatment will see moderate to substantial improvement in the brightness and whiteness of their smile.

Typically, age, eating habits, smoking, tooth grinding, and trauma are associated with tooth discoloration. The majority of patients say that tooth whitening not only improves their appearance, but also their outlook – they say they feel like they look younger and more polished.

Bleaching versus Whitening

According to the FDA, the term “bleaching” is used only when the teeth can be whitened beyond their natural color. This applies strictly to products that contain bleach – typically hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.

Meanwhile, “whitening,” restores a tooth’s surface color by removing dirt and debris. So any product that cleans (like a toothpaste) is considered a whitener. Of course, the term whitening sounds better than bleaching, so it is more frequently used – even when describing products that contain bleach.

Significant color change in a short period of time is the major benefit of in-office whitening. This involves the carefully controlled use of a relatively high-concentration peroxide gel, applied to the teeth by the dentist or trained technician after the gums have been protected with a paint-on rubber dam. Generally, the peroxide remains on the teeth for several 15 to 20 minute intervals that add up to an hour (at most).

Those with particularly stubborn staining may be advised to return for one or more additional bleaching sessions, or may be asked to continue with a home-use whitening system.

In-office teeth whitening cost: $650 per visit is the national average.

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