In-Office Teeth Whitening Option: Safe, Effective, and Long-Lasting

dental office
Are you looking to brighten your smile and boost your confidence?

In-office teeth whitening treatment may be the solution you're looking for. This cosmetic and conservative dental procedure can effectively remove stains and discoloration caused by aging, certain foods and drinks, or smoking. However, it does have some limitations that you should be aware of.

In this article, we'll explore the pros and cons of in-office teeth whitening treatment, how it works, what to expect during the procedure, how to maintain your results, and alternatives.

Key takeaways:

  1. In-office teeth whitening treatment can be a good option for people with mild to moderate tooth discoloration caused by aging, certain foods or drinks, or smoking.

  2. Teeth whitening treatment uses a bleaching agent to penetrate deep into the pores of the enamel and break down pigmented substances.

  3. Before in-office teeth whitening treatment, you should maintain good oral hygiene, avoid certain foods and drinks, and use a desensitizing product to minimize sensitivity.

  4. During the in-office teeth whitening procedure, your dentist will apply a high-concentration whitening gel to your teeth and may use a special light or laser to activate the gel and enhance its effectiveness.

  5. After in-office teeth whitening treatment, you may experience some tooth sensitivity and should follow your dentist's instructions for post-treatment care to help reduce side effects and prolong the whitening results.

Is in-office whitening treatment right for you?

Teeth whitening treatment is one of the most conservative approaches to improving the appearance of your teeth. One of its advantages is that it does not require prior preparation of the tooth like you would with crowns or veneers.

If you have mild to moderate tooth discoloration caused by things like aging, certain foods or drinks, or smoking, then in-office whitening treatment may be a good option. This assumes your oral hygiene is good and you don't have cavities, gum disease, or poorly fitting dental restorations.

However, if the discoloration of your teeth is severe or is due to medication, injury, or genetic factors, in-office whitening treatment may not be effective. In this case, your dentist may recommend other options, such as veneers, bonding, or enamel microabrasion.

How does teeth whitening work?

Teeth whitening treatment uses a bleaching agent, usually hydrogen or carbamide peroxide.

When they are in prolonged contact with the teeth, they penetrate deep into the pores of the enamel and break down pigmented substances by oxidizing them. This removes stains and makes them less visible.

The result is a brighter, whiter smile, which can be several shades lighter than the original tooth color.

Before In-office whitening treatment: The preparation phase:

Teeth whitening may cause some side effects due to the active agent (hydrogen peroxide). These include sensitivity, irritation, and weakening of the teeth' structure. Before starting the treatment, there are steps you and your dentist can take to ensure the best results while avoiding these side effects.

1. What you can do before treatment:

1. Your oral hygiene:

Good oral hygiene is important for the success of the whitening treatment. You have to brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily to remove any plaque or buildup that could interfere with the whitening process.

2. Your diet:

Certain foods and drinks can stain your teeth, so it's best to avoid or limit them before and after the whitening treatment. Some common culprits include coffee, tea, red wine, tomato sauce, and berries. You should also avoid smoking or using any tobacco products during the treatment and beyond to prevent further staining.

3. Use a desensitizing product:

Tooth sensitivity during or after whitening treatment is very common. To minimize this, your dentist may recommend using a desensitizing toothpaste, mouthwash, or gel for a week or two before treatment. This can help reduce sensitivity and make the treatment more comfortable.

2. What your dentist can do:

1. Dental assessment:

Your dentist will first examine your teeth to assess the cause of the discoloration and its severity. This will determine the likelihood of successful treatment. If whitening is not an option for you, your dentist may suggest an alternative solution, such as veneers.
He will also check for any signs of tooth decay, gum disease, or other dental problems that may need to be addressed before proceeding with the whitening treatment.

2. Recommend a cleaning:

Your dentist may recommend a professional dental cleaning before the whitening treatment to remove plaque, tartar or surface stains. This will allow the whitening gel to penetrate evenly into the teeth.

3. Provide desensitizing treatment:

If you are prone to tooth sensitivity, your dentist may provide desensitizing treatment before the whitening procedure to reduce any discomfort or sensitivity you may experience during the treatment.

4. Fluoride treatment:

Your dentist may apply a fluoride varnish to your teeth to strengthen the enamel and reduce the risk of sensitivity after treatment.

5. Take a shade measurement of your teeth:

This involves using a shade guide to determine the current color of your teeth and to establish a baseline for comparison after the treatment. This will help customize the whitening treatment to your specific needs and goals. It also allows your dentist to monitor your progress throughout the treatment and to ensure that the desired results are achieved.

During In-office whitening treatment: The procedure:

In-office whitening procedure usually involves the following steps:

  1. Preparation: Your dentist will prepare your mouth by applying a protective gel or rubber shield to your gums and lips to prevent the whitening gel from irritating them.

  2. Whitening gel application: Your dentist will apply a high-concentration whitening gel to your teeth, making sure to cover all surfaces evenly. He will then let the product work for 15 to 20 minutes.

  3. Gel activation: Depending on the type of whitening treatment, your dentist may use a special light or laser to activate the whitening gel and enhance its effectiveness.

  4. Repeat the gel application: Your dentist may repeat the gel application and activation process 3-4 times during the same session, depending on the severity of the stains.

  5. Rinse and clean: Once the treatment is complete, your dentist will rinse your mouth to remove any remaining gel, then clean and polish your teeth to give them a shine.

  6. Aftercare instructions: Your dentist will provide you with instructions for post-treatment care, including avoiding certain foods and drinks that can cause staining and maintaining good oral hygiene habits to help prolong the whitening results.

What to expect after an In-office teeth whitening treatment?

After an in-office teeth whitening treatment, you can expect the following:

  1. Tooth sensitivity: After a whitening treatment, it is common to experience some sensitivity to cold, hot, or sweet foods and drinks. This is usually temporary and can last for about 3-4 days. You can manage it with desensitizing toothpaste, gel, or other remedies recommended by your dentist.

  2. Results: You should notice an immediate improvement in the whiteness of your teeth after treatment. However, full results may take a few days for the final color of your teeth to stabilize.

  3. Maintenance: How long the whitening results last depends on many factors, especially your oral hygiene and eating habits. If you clean your teeth regularly and avoid staining foods and drinks, you can expect the results to last up to 3 years.

The pros of in-office teeth whitening:

In-Office Teeth Whitening is primarily indicated for severe cases or for those who want quick and immediate results. There are several advantages to in-office teeth whitening over other whitening options:

  1. Fast results: In-office teeth whitening typically provides immediate results. You can leave the dental office with noticeably whiter teeth in just one appointment.

  2. Customized treatment: Your dentist can customize the treatment to your specific needs and goals, ensuring that you get the best possible results.

  3. Safe and supervised: In-office teeth whitening is performed by a dental professional, who can monitor your progress and control the risks associated with the whitening agent.

  4. Long-lasting results: In-office teeth whitening can provide long-lasting results with proper maintenance and follow-up care.

In-office whitening limitations:

While in-office teeth whitening can provide significant and fast improvements in the whiteness of your teeth, there are some limitations to the treatment. Here are some of the common limitations to be aware of:

  1. Cost: In-office teeth whitening can be more expensive than at-home whitening options.

  2. Sensitivity: Your dentist uses highly concentrated products, which may increase sensitivity after the treatment. The risk is even higher if you have pre-existing dental issues, such as receding gums.

  3. The results can be unpredictable: While most patients see significant improvements in the whiteness of their teeth after the treatment, the results may not be as dramatic for those with more severe staining or discoloration.

  4. Limited effectiveness on some types of stains: In-office teeth whitening may not be as effective on certain types of stains, such as those caused by certain medications, aging, or genetics.

  5. Not suitable for everyone: If you have sensitive teeth, an ill-fitting filling or crown, or are a heavy smoker, teeth whitening may not be an appropriate option.

  6. Maintenance is required: To maintain the whitening results, you may need to follow up with additional treatments or use touch-up kits at home. It's also important to avoid staining foods and drinks and maintain good oral hygiene habits.

Alternative options:

If you are not a candidate for teeth whitening, don't worry, other options are available that can also give you excellent results. Here are some alternatives to consider:

1. Dental bonding:

If you have minor discoloration, staining, or tooth decay, dental bonding may be a good option. This involves applying a tooth-colored resin to restore the shape of your damaged tooth and improve its appearance.

2. Veneers:

If discoloration or staining of the front teeth is more pronounced, dental veneers may be a good option. These thin, custom-made shells are placed on the front of the teeth to improve their appearance.

3. Crowns:

If you have more significant damage or decay, dental crowns may be necessary to restore the appearance and function of the teeth.

4. Enamel microabrasion:

This procedure involves removing a thin layer of enamel from the teeth to clear only the affected portion. It may be a good option for those with mild to moderate discoloration or staining limited to the tooth surface.

5. Resin infiltration technique:

This is a quick, painless, and minimally invasive dental procedure that can treat certain types of staining, such as white spot lesions (early tooth decay) or mild cases of fluorosis (tooth defect due to exposure to high doses of fluoride).
During the procedure, a specially formulated resin material is applied to the affected teeth, which then penetrates and fills in the porous areas that are causing the staining. This helps to blend the color of the affected teeth with the surrounding healthy enamel, resulting in a more natural-looking smile.

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  2. Effectiveness, side effects and long-term status of nightguard vital bleaching https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7930184/
  3. Effect of different peroxide bleaching regimens and subsequent fluoridation on the hardness of human enamel and dentin https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15507905/
  4. Effect of sodium fluoride pretreatment on the efficacy of an in‐office bleaching agent: An in vitro study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6115870/