Having white teeth helps improve our self-esteem. Unfortunately, not all are born with a white smile.
Teeth can become stained or discolored due to various factors, including acidic foods and beverages, tobacco use, poor oral hygiene, age, medication, genetics, and dental or mouth trauma.
Teeth whitening is a popular cosmetic dental procedure that aims to brighten and enhance the appearance of teeth by reducing stains and discolorations. It is a non-invasive treatment that can be performed at home or by a dental professional.
Types of Teeth Whitening
There are several methods available for teeth whitening, including:
1. In-Office Whitening
A dentist or dental professional performs this, and it usually involves the application of active ingredients like hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide combined with a special activating LED light or laser. This procedure can help reduce extrinsic and intrinsic stains. Extrinsic stains are those located on the surface of the teeth, and intrinsic stains or deep discolorations are deeper within the tooth enamel.
Depending on the severity of your tooth discoloration and goals, you may need more than one session. However, you can expect to notice whiter teeth after your first visit.
2. Dentist-Prescribed Take-Home Kits
These kits include custom-made trays or strips filled with a whitening gel containing hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. They are used for a specified duration each day, usually for a few weeks, and can provide effective whitening results.
Note that these can only prescribed by your dentist, and you cannot buy them from elsewhere.
3. Over-the-Counter Whitening Products
These products, such as whitening toothpaste, mouthwash, whitening pens, and strips, can be purchased without a prescription. They can contain mild abrasives, coconut oil, baking soda, etc.
While they may help remove surface stains, their effectiveness in achieving significant whitening differs, and it may take longer to see noticeable results.
How Long Does the Effect of Teeth Whitening Last?
The duration of teeth whitening results depends on various factors, including the individual’s oral hygiene habits, lifestyle choices, and the type of whitening method used.
On average, professional whitening treatments can last anywhere from one to three years. For at-home teeth whitening kits, the effects can last anywhere between four to six months. On the other hand, over-the-counter products can last for a few weeks to a few months.
Factors that can influence the longevity of teeth whitening include:
- Oral hygiene. Proper care, including regular brushing, flossing, and dental cleanings, can help preserve the whiteness of your teeth for longer.
- Diet and lifestyle choices. Consuming stain-causing foods and beverages like coffee, tea, red wine, and tobacco can accelerate discoloration. Limiting or avoiding these substances can help prolong the results of teeth whitening.
- Whitening maintenance. Some individuals may opt for periodic touch-up treatments to maintain their desired level of whiteness. Depending on the method originally used, these touch-ups can be done at home or by a dental professional.
What Happens During a Teeth Whitening Session?
Here is a general step-by-step breakdown of what happens during an in-office teeth whitening session:
- Consultation. The session usually begins with a consultation where the dentist or dental professional evaluates your dental health and discusses your goals for teeth whitening. They will also explain the procedure and answer any questions you may have.
- Preparation. Before starting the whitening process, the dentist will clean your teeth to remove any plaque or debris. This ensures that the whitening gel can penetrate the teeth effectively.
- Protection. A barrier or dental dam is placed over them to protect your gums. This prevents the whitening gel from coming into contact with the sensitive gum tissue.
- Application of whitening gel. The dentist or dental assistant will apply a professional-strength whitening gel containing hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide onto your teeth. The gel is carefully applied to each tooth’s surface, ensuring even coverage.
- Activation. Some whitening systems use a special LED accelerator light or laser to activate the whitening gel and enhance its effectiveness. The light is directed onto the gel-coated teeth for a specific duration, typically around 15 to 20 minutes.
- Waiting period. After activation, you will typically wait for a short period of time while the whitening gel works on your teeth. You may be provided with protective eyewear and offered amenities to make you comfortable during this time.
- Rinse and evaluation. Once the waiting period is over, the dentist or dental professional will remove the whitening gel from your teeth and rinse your mouth thoroughly. They will evaluate the shade of your teeth and determine if additional sessions are needed to achieve the desired results.
- Post-whitening care instructions. The dental professional will provide post-whitening care instructions, including avoiding staining foods and beverages, practicing good oral hygiene, and scheduling necessary follow-up appointments.
Note that it is common to experience certain effects after teeth whitening sessions. These include tooth sensitivity, gum irritation, temporary enamel erosion, and tooth discomfort.
How Long Does Teeth Whitening Take?
The duration of teeth whitening can vary depending on the method used.
Here is a breakdown:
- In-office procedure. In-office treatment typically takes around one hour to complete.
- Professional take-home kits. The treatment duration can vary but generally takes about three to four weeks. You must wear the trays for a specified period each day as directed by your dental professional.
- Over-the-counter tooth whitening products. It may take anywhere from two weeks to several months of regular use to see the desired whitening effects, depending on the specific product and concentration of the whitening agent.
How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost without Insurance?
The cost of teeth whitening can vary depending on various factors, including your location, the type of treatment, and the provider you choose. In-office professional teeth whitening can range from $500 to $1,000 per session. At-home whitening kits typically cost between $100 to $400.
How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost with Insurance?
Insurance coverage for teeth whitening varies among different dental insurance plans. Since teeth whitening is considered a cosmetic procedure, it may not be covered by most dental insurance policies. However, checking with your insurance provider is always advisable to determine if any coverage or reimbursement is available.
Schedule an Initial Consultation with Us Today
Teeth whitening can be an effective way to achieve a brighter smile and regain confidence. While the results are not permanent, maintaining good oral hygiene, making wise diet choices, and considering touch-up treatments can help give longer-lasting results. Whether you choose in-office professional whitening or at-home kits, consult a dental professional to determine the best approach for your needs.
Ready to get a whiter smile? Schedule an appointment with one of our dentists to learn how teeth whitening can help you achieve your aesthetic goals.