Guide to Dental Whitening

Over the last decade, tooth whitening has become an increasingly popular cosmetic procedure in North America. Someone who is new to the tooth whitening process will likely have many questions before agreeing to have his/her teeth whitened. Listed below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about having teeth whitened – including ballpark costs, treatment options, and more.

Why do people need to have their teeth whitened?

As people age, many factors change the way their teeth look. These factors include eating habits, tobacco usage, family history, bone density, and the strength of their tooth enamel. Although it is not a medical necessity to have your teeth whitened, many people feel that it restores a youthful look and is generally more attractive to have whiter teeth than to allow the naturally occurring fading to set in.

What exactly is teeth whitening, and how does the process work?

Teeth whitening, also known as dental bleaching, is an increasingly popular procedure in the dental industry. By using whitening agents such as bleaching gel, lasers, and sometimes even naturally occurring substances – such as lemon juice, a person’s teeth are lightened in color to restore a younger looking smile.

What different whitening methods are available?

According to the American Dental Association there are several generally accepted ways of whitening teeth. The first of which is professional dental bleaching, which is applied by a licensed dentist. This process takes roughly an hour and a half and is painless. At home bleaching, also referred to as over the counter bleaching, is the second most common whitening method, during which a patient purchases and applies the whitening agent to his or her teeth at home. The third type of bleaching method that is readily available is called non-dental professional bleaching, which is the type of bleaching that occurs at spas, mall kiosks, and sometimes even dermatologists’ offices. These are non-medical procedures that are applied by professionals who are not dentists.

How long will teeth whitening last?
Generally speaking, a teeth whitening treatment will last up to 4 months before starting to fade. If a patient wishes, they can avoid the use of tobacco products and abstain from drinking dark liquids such as colas, coffees, and red wines for longer lasting whitening effects.

Are there any health risks associated with teeth whitening?
As with any cosmetic procedure, some risks are associated with teeth whitening. For people with sensitivities to hydrogen peroxide, consulting with a dentist before whitening is a must. People with gum disease should also consult a dentist before whitening their teeth. Children under 16 should not whiten their teeth as there is a slight risk of permanent tooth damage. Other side effects include chemical burns, an unnaturally white appearance, slight tooth enamel loss or damage, and sensitivity to hot or cold foodstuffs and beverages.

Which methods of whitening work the best?

Everyone’s teeth are different. Because of this, how your teeth react to any given whitening method is unique to your body. If you have concerns about how your teeth will react to any method, consulting with your dentist is recommended.

How much does a professional teeth whitening cost?
Depending on the method you and your whitening professional decide upon, a 1 hour teeth whitening session can cost anywhere from $300 – $2,000 USD. In most cases, whitening is not covered by dental insurances because it is viewed as a cosmetic and optional procedure.