Dear Patient,

Coloration of teeth has always been an important feature of one's smile. Primitive cultures manipulated tooth color in many ways to achieve a desired effect. That effect often included changing tooth color to black, blue, green and other unusual colors. Other ancient people valued the importance of white teeth so much tat they darkened their lips and area around their eyes to make the teeth appear whiter by contrast. Our culture obviously values light teeth, evidence is in posters and popular magazines. Your smile is one of the most important aspects of how you present yourself to others and make you "uniquely you".

Modern methods of whitening teeth are the product of many years of research and careful consideration of the safest, most effective means of treating discolored teeth. Below we answer common questions and concerns about tooth whitening. We hope this will demystify the tooth whitening process for you.


How Did my Teeth Get so Yellow?

There are many factors that can lead to tooth discoloration. First we must realize tooth color is largely a matter of inherited tendencies. Some of us are born with the tendency for lighter teeth and some teeth respond better to whitening than others.

In addition to heredity, the natural process of aging may produce discoloration. Stains from foods such as coffee and tea accumulate on your teeth over time. The tiny fractures and chips that occur with aging collect stain more readily and enhance the discoloration. Whitening can be extremely helpful in treating the discoloration that ordinarily occurs with aging.

Some staining may be the result of problems that originate within the body. The use of the antibiotic tetracycline or ingesting large amounts of fluoride during the development of teeth can cause permanent staining. Also a tooth may become discolored as a result of disease or nerve death of the tooth caused by infection or trauma. This type of discoloration is usually permanent but may respond well to whitening.


How Does Whitening Work?

Your dentist will first check your teeth and gums to be sure that you begin the treatment in good dental health. Then your dentist will take an impression of your teeth in order to provide you with a custom-fit plastic tray designed to hold the bleaching gel next to your teeth. You will be provided with your tray, the whitening agent, and instructions on proper use. Following the bleaching program your dentist recommends, you'll notice the results quickly, as the gel begins to lighten you teeth.


How Long Will Whitening Take?

Treatment times will vary depending on the depth of discoloration, your own unique tooth structure, and motivation level. You should, however, begin to see results within 3 days of starting the whitening process.


How Long Will it Last?

Your own long term results will vary depending on your habits and the specific foods you eat. Non-smokers who don't drink coffee or tea see little or no change over five years. Based on those variables some patients may require a "touch-up" treatment at regular intervals.


Is Bleaching Safe?

If performed properly, under the supervision of a dental professional, research has shown that bleaching works without lasting damage to underlying dental tissues. The whitening process will not affect your enamel, tooth structure, bonding or restorations. In fact, dentist supervised whitening has been done for nearly a century, but has increased in popularity in recent years as stained teeth are becoming less acceptable, and the process becoming more efficient and available.


Is There any Discomfort?

There is little, if any. Some patients might feel some tingling or stinging of the gums or the appearance of small blanching. This is generally caused by the whitening agent coming in contact with the soft tissue. This contact can be avoided by using trays made to fit your own unique mouth. Also, overfilling the tooth trays can cause the agent to seep out the top and come in contact with the gums, causing some tenderness. Extending treatment times past what is recommended does not effectively whiten but instead dehydrates the teeth and can cause some discomfort. Such sensitivities are minor and ceases shortly after discontinuing treatment.


What's the Difference Between Dentist-Supervised and Over-the-Counter Treatments?

There are many differences, starting with the fact that your teeth and your own dental situation are absolutely unique. Which is why the safety of your treatment requires a dentist's evaluation and supervision. You'll also find that trays designed by a dentist will fit better and will consequently expel far less bleaching gel that the unsupervised, over-the-counter, one-size-fits-all treatment alternatives. Chemicals such as those found in bleaching products are most safely applied while under the care of a dental professional using specialized equipment that will protect surrounding tissue to the greatest degree.



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