Bleaching or Tooth Whitening
Bleaching is an altering of the appearance of the surface of the teeth using a gel containing chemical whitening agent(s). These gels are held in place on the surface of the teeth with flexible, clear, thin trays. Trays are custom-made for the patient before the actual bleaching is started. Bleaching gels are available in varied strengths expressed in the amount of the active ingredient, usually by percentage.
Bleaching of the teeth can result in sensitivity of the teeth during the active bleaching. The amount of sensitivity is influenced by the concentration of the active ingredients as well as the frequency and duration that they are applied. Because faster bleaching results in more sensitivity, we prefer to use a system that takes 7 to 10 applications of one hour each. Each application is done once per day. We have found this to be the best balance between the end result of lightening the teeth and the amount of sensitivity experienced. The sensitivity of the teeth will revert back to whatever your usual sensitivity level was prior to bleaching a few days after the 7 to 10 applications are finished.
Each patient will obtain varied amount of lightening of the teeth. Unless we have done the bleaching for you in the past, we cannot predict the amount of whitening you will achieve. We would be happy to discuss our past experience with patients of similar tooth color and amount of stain, to give you an idea of what range of changes you could reasonably expect.
Before bleaching is started, an appointment is made for impressions to be taken. These are used to have trays fabricated that only fit the individual patient. These take about a week to complete, assuming no holidays. It is best to bleach as soon as possible to after a complete, thorough dental cleaning and exam.
After the trays are made, an appointment is made to start the bleaching process in our office. We typically start the bleaching in our office, as we can use techniques in our office that are more aggressive than those we have patents use at home. This appointment is about 1 hour.
After the first appointment, the patient is given the trays in a protective orthodontic retainer case, as well as bleaching gel to use at home. Individual instruction is given to the patient in the correct use of the gels and trays.
Most patients have sufficient bleaching gel material to re-apply the gel once-a-month for about one year. This occasional re-application of the gel maintains the whitening of the teeth. Without re-applying the gel the tooth color returns to the original color for most patients within a few months.