Cosmetic Dentistry for You: An Overview of Whitening

Your smile can say a lot about who you are. When you smile, it impacts the people you meet almost instantly. A white smile is perceived as healthy, and can subconsciously indicate youth, good health, and warmth. Those who are self-conscious about the appearance of their teeth may not smile with an open mouth, leaving those they meet with a stiff, unfriendly impression.

Even statistics reveal that Americans place a lot of value on straight, white teeth: Research from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry says that 99.7 percent of adults think smiles are an important social tool. 96 percent of adults also think a beautiful smile makes one more attractive to the opposite sex. 74 percent of adults think that an unsightly smile can hurt a person’s chance for career success.

Investing in cosmetic dentistry can be the first step to becoming a better, more radiant you. Cosmetic dentistry can improve or fix nearly any dental ailment, such as: gaps or crooked teeth, rotten or missing teeth, excessive or dark gums, broken teeth, or discoloration. Tooth whitening is one of the most common cosmetic dentistry procedures.

An Overview of Whitening

Dentists will normally use peroxide-based materials and intense light to whiten dingy teeth, a process that can make teeth up to six shades whiter in one go. Before beginning the process, patients must have healthy gums and have filled in any existing cavities. Depending on the system used, the gums may have to be protected while the gels are applied to the teeth. A laser or plasma arc light source then activates the peroxide gels to oxidize the stains on the tooth’s surface. The teeth will begin to whiten within one hour.

Some dentists may give their patients whitening systems to use at home. These are often made from carbamide peroxide gels. The dentist will make an impression of the patient’s mouth so that soft trays can be made. Once the patient is fitted with the trays, they will be instructed to place a small amount of gel in the tray to wear while they sleep. Whitening will usually take place in a little over a week, though some systems may need to be worn for at least six weeks. White fillings made from resin or bonding, and bridges will likely not whiten much with either of these methods. Some patients may also experience tooth sensitivity during these procedures, which can be fixed by alternating concentrated fluoride and peroxide in the trays.

In-office whitening can cost anywhere from $500 to $1000. The process is usually more expensive when used with a laser. At-home systems are cheaper, ranging from $400 to $800. Store-bought whitening systems do not use the same peroxide concentrations as a dentist-distributed home whitening system, and thus will not be as effective. The mouth trays in these systems are also not custom-made for the patients, which can cause gum irritation or painful tooth sensitivity.