How white your teeth can become from bleaching and whitening is a common question with a very subjective answer. Some whitening procedures claim they can whiten your teeth by up to nine shades, but that is highly unlikely. Just a change of two or three shades will make a significant difference in just about anyone's smile. There is no one standard system in the dental field to measure and determine tooth color. The most often heard about, however, is the Vita shade guide. This guide divides tooth color into four basic shade ranges:
A (reddish brown)
B (reddish yellow)
C (gray)
D (reddish gray).

In the A range there are five levels of darkness. Ranges B, C and D, each have four levels.

Not all of your teeth are the same natural color. Usually your eye teeth tend to be darker than the others, your front teeth are typically the whitest, and molars tend to be a shade between the two. The goal for everyone is to achieve their individual optimum whiteness while still looking natural. During your first consultation for tooth whitening, your dentist will go over what you personally can expect for your specific smile. How white teeth will become from a given procedure will vary from person to person. The structure of your teeth and the type of procedure implemented will affect the outcome.

The following chart will give you some idea of how to compare the two most popular methods for tooth whitening. As everyone's circumstances are different, both options should be further discussed with your cosmetic dentist prior to making a decision.

Procedure Usually Lasts For: May Cause During and Shortly After Procedure: Time for Procedure: Changes in Shade: Average Cost:
Gel/Tray 4 - 12 Months Sensitive Gums/Teeth 50 Hours 4 - 5 $ 400
Laser 12 - 18 Months Minor Discomfort 2 - 3 Hours 7 - 8 $ 1,000.
BriteSmile 12 - 18 Months Minor Discomfort 2  Hours 8+ $ 600.

Teeth enamel discoloration can be caused by staining, aging, or chemical damage to teeth. Some of the more common causes of teeth discoloration are medications, coffee, tea or cigarettes. People who drink significant amounts of cola soft drinks can experience similar staining.

Aside from staining, there are other factors that can affect the color of an individual's teeth. Genetics can play a role. Some people have naturally brighter enamel than others. Disease can also be a factor and certain medications can cause a discoloration of the teeth. If you suspect that there is an underlying medical cause for your teeth discoloration, be sure to inform your cosmetic dentist.

Overview of Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening is used to correct discoloration of the teeth by removing the brown and yellow staining. The term "teeth whitening" can refer to a number of techniques to improve the brightness of the patient's teeth. Among them are chemical whitening, mild acid whitening, abrasive teeth brightening and the newest technique, laser teeth whitening.

Teeth Bleaching

Teeth Bleaching Teeth bleaching is chemical process used to lighten the color of the patient's teeth. The procedure can be performed entirely in the cosmetic dentist's office or it can be performed by the patient in their home, using a materials provided by the dentist. The home method is often used because it saves the patient from having to make an office visit for each treatment.

Before the patient embarks on the home teeth whitening regimen, the cosmetic dentist creates a custom mouth tray for the patient. The custom tray is a critical component of the treatment. It ensures that the correct amount of whitening solution is used and that the patient's teeth are properly exposed to the whitening solution. The custom made mouth tray provides for a better fit than a one-size-fits-all mouth tray to help increase the margin of patient safety.

The steps in the home teeth whitening regimen are fairly straightforward. The cosmetic dentist's office provides the patient with the materials and instructions and also answers questions the patient may have about the routine. Your dentist's office can also provide you with off-site supervision should you have any questions once you've begun.

A home whitening session can last for two to three hours, during which time you will have the tray and solution in your mouth. Depending upon your needs and desired results, your dentist may instruct you to keep the tray in your mouth overnight. Typically, you will follow your home teeth whitening regimen for two to three weeks, after which time you will return to your cosmetic dentist for a follow up visit.

Teeth Bleaching How long does teeth whitening last?

Teeth whitening is not a permanent procedure. Results can last for one to or more years, depending upon your personal habits. In most cases, the whitening procedure is very effective and the patient is pleased with the results.

How much does teeth whitening cost?

The standard fee for teeth whitening and teeth bleaching procedures is about $500 in most cases. Costs can vary depending upon the area of the country you live in and the type of whitening treatment you undergo. Laser teeth whitening is typically over $1000. for example. In-home tray bleaching can cost between $50. and $100. dollars for a total teeth whitening system. Store-bought whitening strips can cost as little as $25. for a total treatment whitening system. Teeth whitening stores, stands and kiosks typically cost between $50. and $150. dollars per treatment.

Generally speaking, the price of teeth whitening increases with the number of in-office treatments required by the patient. Dental insurance does not typically cover the cost of the teeth whitening procedure.

There are a few teeth whitening procedures available that correct discoloration of the teeth by removing the brown and yellow staining. While each work effectively, there are advantages and disadvantages to each procedure dependent upon your objectives and commitment to the processes. The type of procedures available should be discussed with your cosmetic dentist, and a they will recommend the most appropriate teeth whitening procedure for you.

BRITESMILE TEETH WHITENING (In-Office)

Using a specail light with a whitening gel, this is an in-office bleaching system. It is often followed up with an at-home bleaching kit if needed.

The translucent bleaching gel is applied to the teeth and a specail activating light source is used to activate the crystals to absorb the energy from the light and penetrate the teeth enamel to increase the lightening effect on the teeth. The length of time in the cosmetic dentist's chair depends on the degree of discoloration you have, but two hours is common.

Advantage: One visit is usually all it takes for a bright smile. The tooth whitening treatment typically costs $600.

Disadvantage: The sudden change of color is likely to be noticed by those around you immediately.

LASER BLEACHING (In-Office)

Using a laser with a whitening gel, this is an in-office bleaching system.

The translucent bleaching gel is applied to the teeth and a laser light is used to activate the crystals to absorb the energy from the light and penetrate the teeth enamel to increase the lightening effect on the teeth. The length of time in the cosmetic dentist's chair depends on the degree of discoloration you have.

Advantage: One visit is usually all it takes for a bright smile.

Disadvantage: The sudden change of color is likely to be noticed by those around you immediately. This is the more expensive of the procedures available, but also the quickest.

CUSTOM FIT TRAY BLEACHING (In-Home)

A custom fitted tray is worn over your teeth. A small amount of the bleaching gel is placed in the tray and worn for a brief amount of time each day. This is a common technique because it's easy to use and costs less. Impressions are taken of your mouth and a thin custom made plastic tray is made which you take home and wear for about one to two hours per day. While some results may be seen in a couple days, it usually takes one to two weeks to see the full whitening of your teeth. This procedure is sometimes used in conjunction with the in-office laser bleaching if you have severe discoloration (dark grey or purple) or internal teeth staining.

Advantage: A gradual whitening of your teeth over time will be less noticeable to others that you're undergoing this procedure. The cost is relatively low.

Disadvantages: This procedure will require two to four visits to the cosmetic dentists office.

STORE-BOUGHT WHITENING STRIPS (In-Home)

A whitening strip is fitted over your upper and lower teeth. You'll wear them for a half hour to one hour once a day depending on the brand. This is the most common technique because it's easy to use and costs less. The strips are comfortable and have no trouble staying in place. Speaking is slightly awkward while wearing them. While some results may be seen in a couple days, it usually takes one week for the faster strips to one month for the slower systems for you to see the full whitening of your teeth. This procedure is sometimes used in conjunction with the in-office laser bleaching if you have severe discoloration (dark grey or purple) or internal teeth staining.

Advantage: You can whiten your teeth as fast or slow depending on which system you select. Some whiten in as little as seven days. Usually you only wear the strips for a half hour at a time. Some even dissolve. The cost is relatively low compared to other methods. Also a good solution for "touch-ups" when needed.

Disadvantages: This procedure may not be as powerful as other procedures which require visits to the cosmetic dentists office.

IN-MALL WHITENING STORES OR STANDS (In-Store)

This is a newer whitening option but is basically the same as the in-home kits. A custom fitted tray or strips are worn over your teeth. While some results may be seen right away, it is usually recommended that you return to the treatment center weekly to achieve the full whitening of your teeth.

Advantage: You will likely see immediate results after the first visit. If you are uncomfortable using the at-home whitening kits or strips, this may make you feel more assured.

Disadvantages: This teeth whitening option isn't much different than the at-home strips and tray systems and costs more. It also requires regular trips to the treatment center. The materials used are not necessarily up to dental professional standards.

There are a few teeth whitening procedures available that correct discoloration of the teeth by removing the brown and yellow staining. While each work effectively, there are advantages and disadvantages to each procedure dependent upon your objectives and commitment to the processes. The type of procedures available should be discussed with your cosmetic dentist, and a they will recommend the most appropriate teeth whitening procedure for you.

CUSTOM FIT TRAY BLEACHING (In-Home)

A custom fitted tray is worn over your teeth. A small amount of the bleaching gel is placed in the tray and worn for a brief amount of time each day. This is the most common technique because it's easy to use and costs less. Impressions are taken of your mouth and a thin custom made plastic tray is made which you take home and wear for about one to two hours per day. While some results may be seen in a couple days, it usually takes one to two weeks to see the full whitening of your teeth. This procedure is sometimes used in conjunction with the in-office laser bleaching if you have severe discoloration (dark grey or purple) or internal teeth staining.

Advantage: A gradual whitening of your teeth over time will be less noticeable to others that you're undergoing this procedure. The cost is relatively low.

Disadvantages: This procedure will require two to four visits to the cosmetic dentists office.

The standard fee for tray bleaching teeth procedures is about $500 or more in most cases. Depending on your cosmetic dentist, this may or may not include office visits. Costs can vary depending upon the area of the country you live in and the type of whitening treatment you undergo.

Generally speaking, the price of teeth whitening increases with the number of in-office treatments required by the patient. Dental insurance does not typically cover the cost of the teeth whitening procedure.

There are a few teeth whitening procedures available that correct discoloration of the teeth by removing the brown and yellow staining. While each work effectively, there are advantages and disadvantages to each procedure dependent upon your objectives and commitment to the processes. The type of procedures available should be discussed with your cosmetic dentist, and a they will recommend the most appropriate teeth whitening procedure for you.

LASER BLEACHING (In-Office)

Using a laser with a whitening gel, this is an in-office bleaching system. The translucent bleaching gel is applied to the teeth and a laser light is used to activate the crystals to absorb the energy from the light and penetrate the teeth enamel to increase the lightening effect on the teeth. The length of time in the cosmetic dentist's chair depends on the degree of discoloration you have.

Advantage: One visit is usually all it takes for a bright smile.

Disadvantage: The sudden change of color is likely to be noticed by those around you immediately. This is the more expensive of the procedures available, but also the quickest.

Costs can vary depending upon the area of the country you live in and the type of whitening treatment you undergo. Laser teeth whitening is typically over $1000. for the complete procedure.

Generally speaking, the price of teeth whitening increases with the number of in-office treatments required by the patient. Dental insurance does not typically cover the cost of the teeth whitening procedure.

Pros and Cons of Teeth Whitening

Advantages:

People typically have their teeth whitened to improve their appearance. Whiter teeth are associated with beauty and a healthier lifestyle. When people have a brighter smile, they tend to smile more often and are less self-conscious.

In addition, a whiter smile tends to minimize the appearance of facial wrinkles, giving way to a more youthful and energetic appearance.

Finally, a whiter smile gives people to whom you are speaking a place to focus on and gives you a friendlier appearance.

Disadvantages:

Although bleaching is very effective, there can be short term disadvantages, such as sore gums or teeth from the bleach. This disappears when bleach use is discontinued. Some individuals are more chemically sensitive. If you are one of them, inform your cosmetic dentist so that you can be tested for sensitivity to the solution.

Research indicates that bleaching is completely effective in more than 78% of people. In cases of serious teeth discoloration, bleaching may not be the best choice. Veneers or crowns may be the superior choice. Bleaching is usually the first solution to try due to its lower cost.

Some people experience discomfort from wearing the mouth tray. This typically goes away in short order, but if you suspect that there is a problem with the fit of your mouth tray, call your dentist's office. They can often make small adjustments that will minimize or eliminate the problem.

Making Dentistry Affordable

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