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The Truth About Tooth Whitening / Tooth Bleaching Systems

Just about everyone would love to have whiter teeth if they could. In the past ten years tooth bleaching has really taken off, has gotten less expensive and easier to do. In this wave of cosmetic enhancement and in a society which desires to look younger and better, many "schemes" and profiteering pitfalls await the uneducated consumer.

In the past dozen years or so I have seen radical changes in the methods used in teeth bleaching. The methods today are more sophisticated and the bleaching agents more advanced. Years ago, the only way to bleach teeth was in the dental office. Now you have the option to whiten your teeth at home under the supervision of a dentist.

I must warn you. Over-the-counter (OTC) whitening toothpastes and bleaching systems are a waste of time and money. They may whiten your teeth but it will take years or decades. OTC bleaching systems do not use custom trays and you may be ingesting more bleaching agent than what remains on your teeth.

Why do our teeth darken? The factors that darken the teeth are, staining foods like wine, tea, coffee; use of tobacco; hot and cold cycling; and time. Staining foods and tobacco are obvious. Changes in temperatures of foods and drinks allow the teeth to expand and contract which causes stains to penetrate the teeth. Foods that are slightly acidic also open up the pores of the enamel and allow stains to move in. Teeth darken as we age because the staining factors act upon the teeth for a longer period of time.

There are some people who have tetracycline stains on their teeth and depending upon the severity of staining, bleaching will lighten the darkest areas but may not totally remedy the condition. After bleaching, either bonding or porcelain laminates complete the cosmetic result.

For people who have yellow teeth, it is not realistic to obtain teeth that are as white as a piece of white paper. What you can expect is a result that is about two shades lighter than what you have now. Even with the most sophisticated system, there is a variability in results, ie 3+ shades lighter to no change at all. As this is a cosmetic procedure, the bleaching cannot guarantee you a specific result. Bleaching is a very safe, generally low cost, generally effective and very conservative cosmetic treatment. If you do not get the results you want alternatives are bonding, porcelain veneers, and capping.

There are two effective modalities commonly used in practice today. For very dark teeth, I recommend an in office power bleach which gets the teeth lighter in a two to three hour visit to the dentist. Depending on the result, use of a take home whitening system completes the bleaching in two to four weeks. Many times the power bleach in the office is all that is necessary.

For those with the time and inclination, a take home whitening system is used for two to four weeks for effective whitening. Molds of the mouth are taken and custom bleaching trays are made. The whitening agent is placed inside of the tray and the tray is then placed over your teeth for two to four hours or overnight if you wish. Apply the whitening gel twice a day for two to four weeks and the teeth whiten. A brief visit or two to the dentist ensures that you are doing your home treatments correctly and will allow the dentist to inspect your gums for irritation.

Some people have tooth colored fillings in their teeth that match their yellow teeth before the bleaching. After the bleaching, the teeth whiten but the fillings are still yellow. You should understand that these fillings will need to be replaced at an extra cost after the bleaching is completed. Additionally, if you have crowns or porcelain restorations in conspicuous areas of your mouth, these will also not lighten from bleaching and they may not match the shade of your newly whitened, natural teeth.

How long does the bleaching last? I like to compare bleaching to a face lift. Even the best face lifts deteriorate with time but you still look better 10 years later than if you didn't have one in the first place. What cosmetic surgery and bleaching have in common is that they take off the perception of aging and take years off your appearance. Typically bleaching can last 10 years depending on whether or not you smoke, consume acid containing foods, or consume staining foods like red wines, etc.

While not as effective as dental office bleaching, whitening toothpastes can improve the look of your smile.

Think of these toothpastes as "carwashes" for your teeth. In the same way that a good car washing removes the dirt on your car to make it sparkle, whitening toothpastes remove stains and crud from your teeth so that your smile shines through.

Many whitening toothpastes use harsh abrasives to clean teeth. Unfortunately, over long periods of repeated use, these harsh abrasives begin to remove tooth enamel making teeth appear yellow and causing them to become sensitive to cold or heat.

We suggest using one of the newer breeds of whitening toothpastes which do not contain harsh abrasives but instead, use safer methods for removing stains from teeth.

One of these safe toothpastes is SuperSmile Toothpaste. Instead of utilizing harsh abrasives, SuperSmile utilizes the patented ingredient Calprox.

Calprox safely dissolves the clear, sticky protein film to which coffee, tea, tobacco, wine and other stains adhere. This makes your teeth appear whiter, feel smoother, and remain cleaner.