Whitening Your Teeth

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Tooth whitening (bleaching) isn't just for the movie stars. Many people have had their teeth whitened, and probably millions more are thinking about it. The desire for a brighter smile with whiter teeth is very strong. Teeth bleaching safely lightens the color of the teeth, lasting up to five years. The most effective and safest method of tooth bleaching is dentist-supervised.

Generally, bleaching is successful in at least 95% of patients, though it may not be an option for everyone. Consider whitening if your teeth are darkened from age, coffee, tea or smoking. Teeth darkened with the color of yellow, brown or orange respond better to lightening. Gray stains caused by fluorosis, smoking or tetracycline are lightened, but results may not be as dramatic.


First, Dr. Mahlin will determine whether you are a candidate for teeth bleaching and what type of bleaching system would provide the best results. Most patients enjoy the convenience of bleaching at home with a tray that fits over your teeth and into which a whitening solution (gel) is placed. The tray is custom made for your mouth to ensure the correct amount of whitening gel is used and that your teeth are properly covered. The tray is lightweight so that is can be worn comfortably while you are awake or sleeping. With the tray, you'll receive the bleaching gel and instructions on how to wear the tray. Most bleaching systems recommend bleaching your teeth at night while your sleep. This type of system usually requires 2-4 weeks to complete.

The active ingredient in most of the whitening solutions is carbamide peroxide, also known as urea peroxide. When water contacts the carbamide peroxide, hydrogen peroxide is released and lightens the teeth by oxidation.


Laser bleaching has been featured frequently in the press lately. With this in-office procedure, the whitening gel is placed on the teeth and "activated" by shining a laser light on the area. This is purported to bleach teeth more rapidly. At this time, there is no creditable research to show using a laser in conjunction with bleaching speeds or improves the results.

Over the past five years, several studies have proven bleaching to be effective, durable and safe. The American Dental Association has granted the seal of approval to several bleaching products. Some patients may experience slight gum irritation or tooth sensitivity, which will be resolved when treatment ends.

No one can really predict how much lighter your teeth will become. Every case is different. Typically, there is a two or three shade improvement as seen on a dentist's shade guide. The success rate depends upon the type of stain involved and your compliance. Bleaching can only provide a shift in color; from gray to a lighter shade of gray, for example. Bleaching does not lighten man-made materials such as tooth colored fillings, porcelain crowns and bridges.

If you have any questions regarding whitening your teeth, Dr. Mahlin would be happy to discuss them with you.

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