There are many methods to whiten teeth: bleaching strips, bleaching pen, bleaching gel, laser bleaching, and natural bleaching. Traditionally, at-home whitening involves applying bleaching gel to the teeth using thin guard trays. At-home whitening can also be done by applying small strips that go over the front teeth. Oxidizing agents such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide are used to lighten the shade of the tooth. The oxidizing agent penetrates the porosities in the rod-like crystal structure of enamel and oxidizes interprismatic stain deposits; over a period of time, the dentin layer, lying underneath the enamel, is also bleached. Power bleaching uses light energy to accelerate the process of bleaching in a dental office. The effects of bleaching can last for several months, but may vary depending on the lifestyle of the patient. Factors that decrease whitening include smoking and the ingestion of dark colored liquids like coffee, tea and red wine.
Internal staining of dentine can discolor the teeth from inside out. Internal bleaching can remedy this. If heavy staining or tetracycline damage is present on a patient's teeth, and whitening is ineffective, there are other methods of whitening teeth. Bonding, when a thin coating of composite material is applied to the front of a person's teeth and then cured with a blue light can be performed to mask the staining. A veneer can also mask tooth discoloration.
Low-concentration teeth whitening is far less effective, and is generally only performed at home. Low-concentration whitening involves purchasing a thin mouthguard or strip that holds a relatively low concentration of oxidizing agent next to the teeth for as long as several hours a day for a period of 5 to 14 days. Results can vary, depending on which application is chosen, with some people achieving whiter teeth in a few days, and others seeing very little results or no results at all. Dentists as well as some dental laboratories can fabricate custom fitted whitening trays that will greatly improve the results achieved with an over-the-counter whitening method.
However, there are several different ways to whiten your teeth, and it can be difficult deciding which to chose from. We can take a look at three ways, and analyze the pros and cons of each:
1. Whitening Strips - Yes they work, but rather slowly and ineffectively. The strips are often messy and don't stay in place. The bleach concentration is also lower (because by the nature of being OTC) and as such, it takes longer to bleach (usually at least 3-4 weeks). So the bottom line is that they do work, but the price you pay is a much longer time of wearing them.
2. Custom Bleaching Trays - Custom bleaching trays are the next option. This involves taking impressions on you and having custom bleaching trays made. The bleach supplied is also a higher concentration. Custom bleach trays offer 3 main advantages: much better fit (and so much better compliance on your end in regards to wearing them), higher bleach concentrations because it comes prescribed from a dentist's office and closer adaptation of the bleaching material to your teeth and as such more effective bleaching.
3. In-Office Whitening - This will give you the quickest results. Typically we can give you 2 week's worth of results in about 2 hours. We place very strong bleach on your teeth with a barrier around your gums to protect them. You sit back, turn the lights down and watch TV for about 2 hours while we put fresh new bleach on your teeth every 15 minutes or so. If you are impatient to get whiter teeth, this is definitely the way to go. If I needed my teeth bleached today, this is the route I would take; I just don't want to wear a bleach tray and want immediate gratification.