It might be a bit after New Year’s, but it’s not too late to make a resolution to whiten your teeth and brighten your smile. Teeth naturally yellow as you age, as the enamel thins, and a lifetime of drinking coffee, tea, and soda, eating berries, or smoking can cause widespread discoloration.
At the dental office of Dr. William M. Schneider in Walnut Creek, California, we have over 25 years of experience creating custom whitening trays for our patients, and we’re committed to providing the best teeth whitening experience possible.
Here’s what you need to know about getting your teeth as white as they can be.
The process of teeth whitening
All teeth whitening systems are the same in that they use a peroxide-based bleaching agent, either carbamide or hydrogen peroxide.
At-home kits with whitening trays provided by your dentist use gels containing 3%-20% peroxide. If your dentist provides an in-office option using trays or lasers, the gels contain 15%-43% peroxide.
In theory, you’d think that the longer a higher-percentage peroxide gel remains in contact with your teeth, the whiter they become. In fact, the higher the percentage, the shorter you should let it remain in contact. The gel can dehydrate your teeth, increasing both tooth and gum sensitivity.
Your choice of teeth whitening method depends on a number of factors, including:
- Discoloration type
- Dental history (fillings and crowns won’t bleach as well)
Teeth whitening works best when teeth are naturally yellowed, and it’s less effective if teeth are brown, for example, from heavy smoking. If your teeth are gray or purple, success is unlikely.
What about DIY kits?
Any supermarket or pharmacy stocks a variety of over-the-counter (OTC) whitening products, which are available in pastes, strips, or gels. Unlike the products you get from your dentist, though, the OTC varieties have little to no carbamide peroxide.
So, if it’s the inner part of your tooth that’s discolored and not the enamel, or if your teeth are heavily stained, these products may have a hard time tackling the problem, or they may take much longer to work — sometimes months.
In addition, the tray you get in the kit won’t be a perfect fit for your mouth, which can lead to greater tooth and gum sensitivity.
What we offer
If you’re looking for a more customized fit and a faster result, your best bet is to get your teeth whitened at your dentist’s office.
At your consultation with Dr. Schneider, he examines your mouth and makes a note of which teeth, if any, have had root canal treatments and a dental crown placed on top. That’s because dental crowns don’t whiten in the same way as your natural teeth.
Dr. Schneider provides two types of whitening treatment:
- Non-vital whitening: used on teeth with a root canal
- Vital whitening: gel placed directly on the tooth’s surface
The whitening process takes two appointments. At the first, Dr. Schneider makes a digital impression of your mouth to send to the lab. It ensures that your whitening trays are fitted perfectly to your teeth.
At your second appointment, once your trays come back from the lab, Dr. Schneider fits the trays in your mouth, making any adjustments to ensure that your experience is as comfortable as possible. At this appointment, he also gives you the whitening gel to use in the trays at home.
To get the best results, Dr. Schneider recommends you use the trays and whitener either twice a day for approximately 30 minutes at a time, or wear them overnight for a couple of weeks.
How long you need to use them depends on how badly your teeth are stained and your aesthetic goals. You can stop when your teeth have whitened to the shade you want.
It’s important that you remain in touch with Dr. Schneider during the whitening process so he can ensure you’re not having any gum or teeth sensitivity because of the gel or are having any difficulty using the trays.
The year is just beginning, and you can still resolve to start it off with a brighter, whiter smile. To learn more about teeth whitening or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Schneider, give the office a call at 925-935-2700, or book your appointment online.