Monday, August 6, 2012

Tooth Whitening

Most people desire a nice beautiful white attractive smile. They don't necessarily want a whiter smile. They want the benefits of a whiter smile.

A whiter smile may enhance confidence. It may improve someone's love life or enable them to keep one. It may help them improve their professional or financial worth. It may even improve overall health by improving mental health and thereby improving physical health.

Tooth whitening is a relatively safe, easy and inexpensive way to improve your smile. There are basically three ways to whiten your teeth. The first is an in-office procedure that takes roughly an hour. The second is a take-home procedure that takes roughly two weeks. The third is an over the counter product that can be purchased at many retailers. There are advantages and disadvantages with each option.

In-Office Whitening

In the In-Office option, your teeth will be whiter before you leave the dental office. The advantage here is that you get immediate results. The disadvantage is that tooth sensitivity is a common problem. I've stopped offering this option years ago for this reason.

A custom tray for Take-Home Whitening
In the take-home option, the dentist will fabricate some custom made trays to hold the whitening gel. Every practionioner has their methods and reasons for doing what they do. What I typically do is to tell my patients to place a small BB sized amount of gel into the tray on the surfaces where the teeth will be visible. I tell them to wear the trays for approximately one hour per day for two weeks. This can be modified depending on the intensity of any potential sensitivity. If sensitivity is a problem, I have them titrate it by using less gel, decreasing the amount of time to perhaps 30 minutes, or perhaps only using the trays every other day. There is no hurry. The whitening need not be completed in two weeks. If the patient does not experience any sensitivity, I advise them to not wear the trays for longer than two hours. The biggest problem with this method is that immediate results are not possible.

Over-The-Counter product
The over-the-counter method is similar to the take-home method. However, custom trays are not worn. Adhesive strips are also available. When using these kits, it's best to follow the manufacturer's instructions. Each product has a different formulation with varying concentrations of the whitening agent. The biggest disadvantage of this method is that since the trays aren't customized for your mouth, the gel will get on the gums and cause irritation. In addition, treatment isn't monitored and you are much more likely to damage the gums and the teeth.

Although teeth whitening is a relatively safe procedure, consult with your dentist immediately if any problems arise. Irreversible damage is possible. Also, I must mention that "whitening addiction" is a serious concern. Do not whiten frequently or for extensive periods.

Some stains are not amenable to whitening. There are basically two types. Those that are on the surface of the teeth (extrinsic), and those that are deep within the teeth (intrinsic). There are other options if you have stains that cannot be readily removed with whitening gels. Your dentist or hygienist can give you guidance.

Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit

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