Teeth whitening advice

As teeth whitening has become increasingly popular over the years, many patients struggle with understanding which treatment is best for them. There are so many choices from over-the-counter products to custom-made home whitening trays as well as in-office power whitening appointments.  

It is best to discuss the options with your dentist. The following are some recommendations from Dr. Terri Alani to help you navigate through the process:

  1. Existing crowns, bridges, veneers and tooth-colored front fillings will not whiten! You need to be aware of this before you begin the whitening process as you do not want to end up with different-colored teeth. If you are going to replace them, then it is best to whiten the teeth first and replace the restorations later so they will match the new whiter shade of your natural teeth.
  2. All teeth whiten differently much like people do not tan the same. Yellow teeth whiten the best, then brown teeth and gray or tetracycline stain are the most difficult.
  3. The most effective whitening procedure for tetracycline-stained teeth is a combination of power in-office one-hour whitening followed by daily home whitening with custom-made trays for no more than four months. It takes longer for this type of stain, but the long-term home whitening will give very good results.
  4. To help prevent sensitivity, patients are encouraged to brush their teeth with Sensodyne or a toothpaste that has potassium nitrate one week before the whitening session. This helps seal the dental tubules preventing fluid to seep in.
  5. For custom home whitening trays, there are two different types of solutions to choose from, carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide.
    a. Carbamide peroxide is for sensitive teeth. Patients usually use carbamide peroxide for night whitening and wear the trays for 2 to 4 hours. After between 2 and 4 hours, the effectiveness declines so wearing the tray longer will have no extra effect. It comes in different strengths ranging from 16 to 35 percent. The less the strength, the less sensitivity there will be.
    b. Hydrogen peroxide is for day whitening and comes in different strengths. It is stronger than carbamide peroxide and not recommended for sensitive teeth. The solution comes in strengths from 6 to 15 percent. The higher the strength, the faster the treatment but a greater risk of sensitivity.
  6. The results may fade slightly over time, but it is very easy to touch up every six months or so with the custom home trays.
  7. Regardless of the strength of gel, you will see the same results in the end.
  8. The good news is that all the treatments work well, but the bad news is that none of them work well on everyone.
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