What is bleaching?
Bleaching (also known as tooth whitening) is a safe and effective process in which teeth are lightened using a whitening solution or gel. Most procedures use a solution formulated with various concentrations of carbamide peroxide. There are many different tooth whitening systems in use today. The most common technique is the take-home system which uses a custom-fitted mouthpiece filled with a whitening solution. There are in-office systems where the solution is activated with a special light. An example of this technique is the “Zoom” system made popular by the TV program “Extreme Makeover.” Other in office systems (also “Zoom”) use no light and can be completed in 1 or 2 visits. Over-the-counter systems use strips, drops, or toothpastes.
How is it done?
The most effective techniques today are the take-home systems, in-office systems or a combination of the two. When using the take-home system, imprints of the teeth are made followed by plaster replicas. A soft plastic custom-made mould or tray is fabricated on the stone models. The tray is filled with whitening gel using a syringe then it is gently fitted onto the teeth.
Fitting the whitening tray onto the teeth.
Depending on the take-home system used, the tray can be worn during the day for approximately 15 to 30 minutes at a time or at night during sleep. Most people will see appreciable results within one to three weeks. A common side effect is tooth sensitivity which can be reduced with fluoride or a desensitizing toothpaste. Whitening is frequently used prior to porcelain veneers, crowns or bridges but it will not lighten existing dental work.
How long does it last?
Whitening can usually last for months or years before needing a touch up. Smoking, coffee, tea and many foods may darken the teeth sooner resulting in more frequent whitening.