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Professional Tooth Whitening

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Why not? Because they’ll yellow your teeth eventually. They contain abrasive ingredients like baking soda, which scrape off a little bit of tooth enamel by way of “whitening” your teeth. At first, you might think your teeth look a little whiter. But over the months and years, as enamel is gradually removed, the layer below the enamel will show more and more. That layer is the dentin, which is yellow.

There’s a health issue here too. The less enamel you have over each tooth, the less protection you have from tooth decay and toothache. That sturdy enamel needs to be retained, rather than slowly removed.

So look for a toothpaste that does not have the word “whitening” on the box or label.

How can tooth enamel be effectively whitened?

Teeth whiten only while they are in contact with a whitening agent. So even putting aside the issue of abrasive ingredients, toothpaste can never be effective in whitening teeth unless you spend about 45 minutes each day brushing.

Instead, you could wear a customized tray for those 45 minutes, which contains professional strength whitening gel. Then you would see very noticeable results within days or a week or two, depending on how discoloured your teeth are to begin with.

1. Take-home whitening kits

Your cosmetic dentist can give you a take-home tooth whitening kit for just a modest cost. He would first have two trays made for you, from molds he would take of your upper and lower teeth. These trays will fit evenly and closely around your individual teeth. Therefore the whitening gel in your kit will be in even and close contact with your teeth, giving a smooth, bright result.

What’s in the kit?

Besides your two custom-made trays in a little container, there will be:

• Several syringes of whitening gel. You and your cosmetic dentist can first discuss how strong the gel should be. If your teeth are particularly sensitive, you can choose a moderate-strength gel, or an even weaker one. If you have more sturdy teeth, the strongest gel would be appropriate. The syringes have marks showing how much gel to use each time.

• A shade strip with places for you to mark the shade of your teeth when you begin and when you finish. Just hold it up next to your teeth to compare them to the shade choices on the strip.

• A syringe of de-sensitizing gel in case your teeth do get a bit sensitive. You can stop using the whitening gel, and use this de-sensitizing gel in the trays for a day or two.

• Instructions on how to use the kit.

Wear the trays for about 45 minutes each day and you’ll be astonished at the results.

2. In-Office Teeth Whitening

If you’d like to get the job done quickly and not bother about wearing trays for a week or two, a fast whitening treatment is the answer. In one visit of about 90 minutes, it can all be finished. The treatment itself takes an hour, and there’s a little time for preparation and a check-up afterwards. 

After you’re comfortably settled, your dentist would first paint a protective gel on the gums and lips (or use a rubber guard). Then the whitening gel is applied to the teeth and a special light directed on it for 20 minutes. This is done twice more. If your teeth become too sensitive during this treatment, it will be stopped and a desensitizing agent applied.

At the end of that hour, you have a bright new smile. To follow up your cosmetic dentist will give you a take-home kit with more whitening gel and two trays. You can use this to brighten your teeth even further, or for later touch-ups.

The secret of successful teeth whitening is to use professional-strength gel, and trays that fit closely around each tooth. The quickest way is in-office, but the at-home method works as well, just taking longer. If you also have minor defects in your front teeth, like chips, slight crookedness, mis-matched sizes, or a gap between them, porcelain veneers are a very popular way to both correct those defects and give your teeth a new bright surface. 

By Patricia Woloch