Teeth Whitening – Getting that Hollywood Smile!

August 4, 2015

Teeth-Whitening-Hollywood-SmileStatistics show that ninety-six percent of people surveyed believe an attractive smile makes a person more appealing, yet only thirty-two percent say they are “concerned about the look of their teeth”.* Providing teeth whitening is the number one cosmetic procedure performed in a dental office, and the amount of money Americans spend annually on getting a brighter, whiter smiles with professional and at-home whitening products is approximately 1.7 billion dollars.*  Before explaining the different whitening procedures and their related costs, it’s important to understand how teeth get stained in the first place.

Coffee-ToothbrushesFoods and drinks associated with stained teeth include red wine, tea, cola, highly acidic sports drinks, berries with strong natural coloring, deeply colored sauces, and candy with artificial color added.  The staining in foods and drinks is mostly caused by chromogens, molecules that are heavily pigmented and latch on to enamel.  The acidity of these foods and beverages temporarily softens the enamel, making it easier for the chromogens to attach themselves to the teeth.  Tannins are also present in several of these foods and beverages, acting as boosters for the chromogens.  Reading this may lead someone to think they should only drink water and eat bland, colorless foods. No need to make major diet changes, there are options available for removing or reducing the stains, but how do they work?


Whitening products all work the same way, but over-the-counter products contain a different concentration of chemicals than professional whitening systems.  The bleach type solution gets down into the tooth enamel and sets off a chemical reaction, breaking apart the staining compounds. ** It is an oxidization process that uses carbamide peroxide, or hydrogen peroxide, similar to products used to bleach hair.

Most dental offices will offer two types of professional whitening, an in-office treatment or a take-home treatment.  Prior to starting any whitening system, it is important to have the teeth cleaned and any cavities or gum health issues taken care of.  The in-office procedure involves application of the peroxide based product and utilizing a high intensity light or laser to enhance the whitening.  One example of this type of system is Zoom WhiteningThe solution strength can vary from 15-35% carbamide peroxide gel and is applied several times, rinsed off and reapplied, getting teeth an average of four to six shades lighter in less than an hour.

Take-home whitening systems can utilize the same concentration of peroxide but tend to have flavoring or fluoride added for improved taste and reduced sensitivity.  Custom fit whitening trays are made and patients are sent home with the trays, whitening gel and instructions.  Dispensing the solution into the trays and wearing them for up to 2 hours a day can get a similar result as in-office treatments, but it may take up to two weeks.  Both in-office and at-home procedures are considered safe, if done under the supervision of the dentist.

Products sold over the counter for teeth whitening utilize the same active ingredients, but in lower concentration. Ease of use and minimal expense make these products attractive to the average consumer.  The drawbacks are these systems are hard to regulate and may not provide adequate coverage since they are not customized for the individual patient. Whitening toothpastes act with an abrasive agent and may include peroxide but isn’t left on the teeth long enough to get the whitening benefit.

Costs for the different whitening products vary significantly based on the system.  In-office and take-home professional systems can range anywhere from $150-$1,000.  The over-the-counter products are much less expensive, ranging from $10-$50, but to get similar results as the professional systems may require multiple purchases, thus reducing the actual savings.

Patients interested in Getting that Hollywood Smile, should talk with the dentist about what system would work best for them, getting them the desired results.  Specific things to consider are, how much does it cost, and how quickly will it work.  Depending on the patient needs, the dentist can recommend a system suited for their individual preferences.



** http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/everyday-innovations/tooth-whitening.htm



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