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Teeth Whitening

Have questions about teeth whitening and how the process works? Our dentists took some time to share information and answer common patient questions to help educate about teeth whitening options. View the table of contents below to learn more or find your question and get an answer from one of our dentists!

 

The following content was provided by Dr. Michael DesRosiers, LVIF Certified General Dentist, and Dr. Jeff Whitehead, DDS, and has been medically reviewed for accuracy. Some relevant links have been added to audio transcripts to provide resources for additional information.

Dr. DesRosiers and Dr. Whitehead respectively:

Dr. Mike DesRosiers          dr jeff whitehead

How does tooth whitening work?

Answer provided by Dr. Michael DesRosiers. Transcript included below.

Dr. DesRosiers: Basically what tooth whitening does, is it uses some kind of a whitening agent, usually a peroxide-based solution, that is applied to your teeth and basically removes the stain by getting into pores and your teeth then and getting this staining out.

There are different kinds of applications. There’s gels, there’s strips, there’s trays, and then there are the more predictable Zoom type solutions that we do in the office. So a lot of different ways to do it and there’s really pros and cons to each.

Can I get a single tooth whitened?

Answer provided by Dr. Michael DesRosiers. Transcript included below.

 
Dr. DesRosiers: Yeah, absolutely you can. So there are ways to do that if you have one tooth that is darker, but a really important part of that solution is to determine why is it dark in the first place. Is the tooth non-vital, has there been trauma to it and what is the cause of the darkness?

Sometimes it’s not just external staining, sometimes it is. In that case, you really would just apply the concentration to that one tooth alone and get it to the point where the others are. And so you really just focus your efforts on whitening that one tooth. If the stain is what’s called intrinsic, if it’s within the tooth, then there are other things that we can do. We can internally whiten the tooth like that in some cases. Or sometimes that tooth just needs to be restored to where you’d use something like a veneer or something to change the shade into the shade that you want.

Do store-bought teeth whitening kits work?

Answer provided by Dr. Michael DesRosiers. Transcript included below.

Dr. DesRosiers: That’s a popular question. They do work. The trouble with them is, most of them, is they are not a custom-fit seal. And so though they do work, the active agent seems to get diluted because there’s nothing to keep the saliva and things from getting to it as well.

So with the strips, for instance, the strip supply to the outside and the inside of the tooth, they really don’t bathe the inter-proximal area between the teeth in the solution. So sometimes you do get some results, but sometimes it’s not a completely even result as the … You just won’t be able to keep the concentration of the whitener in that area that the saliva in your own mouth tends to dilute it, so you don’t get the desired effect always.

Does charcoal teeth whitening work?

Answer provided by Dr. Michael DesRosiers. Transcript included below.

 
Dr. DesRosiers: Again, it has shown some effectiveness in very mild cases. I have not seen results that are really profound if there is a lot of whitening that needs to be done. It will brighten things up a bit in a smile that’s already fairly white, you will see some change. But for what most people need, I don’t feel that it’s adequate that to give you the result that you’re mostly looking for.

Why do my teeth hurt after a teeth whitening?

Answer provided by Dr. Michael DesRosiers. Transcript included below.

Dr. DesRosiers: That’s another common question. So when you do the whitening, the peroxide will penetrate through the enamel of your teeth into the dentin. In the dentin of your teeth there are our pores that become sensitive when they’re exposed to the outside. So what happens is, as it penetrates and cleans out the impurities that caused the stain, it inadvertently opened some of these pores which will give you most often a transitive sensitivity. So it will be sensitive for a while to especially cold things.

So when you do the whitening, people will say, after a while said, “My teeth weren’t sensitive before, now they are.” And that typically will go away. For people that have that problem and still want to whiten, what we typically suggest is to space the protocol out a little bit. Instead of doing it every day, do it every other day or every three days. You’ll get the same effect, it’ll just take a little bit longer and you’re a little less prone to have as much sensitivity.

Does insurance cover teeth whitening at the dentist?

Answer provided by Dr. Michael DesRosiers. Transcript included below.

 
Dr. DesRosiers: In my experience, insurance does not cover tooth whitening, only because it’s really viewed as a cosmetic only approach, and that’s just something most insurance companies do not cover. At least if they do, I’ve never seen it.

Does a teeth cleaning at the dentist whiten your teeth?

Answer provided by Dr. Michael DesRosiers. Transcript included below.

Dr. DesRosiers: So yeah, having your teeth cleaned is of course very important on many levels. If there are surface stains and things like that, the typical dental cleaning will remove those and we’ll make your smile brighter. So that’s absolutely the most important way to keep things whiter, is to keep up with the dental cleanings and your home care.

So I would say yes, in most cases when you leave your teeth will be a little whiter just from getting rid of any surface stains, coffee stains, wine stains, tea stains, those kinds of things. And it will certainly brighten things up.

Should you whiten your teeth in the morning or at night?

Answer provided by Dr. Jeff Whitehead, DDS. Transcript included below.

Dr. Jeff Whitehead:

Some people believe that it’s best to do it at night time after you’ve brushed and flossed and gotten ready for bed. And, then there are a few others that they’re like the morning is fine, but personally, based on the input I’ve gotten from people in my office, night time is when most people do it.

How long does it take to whiten your teeth?

Answer provided by Dr. Jeff Whitehead, DDS. Transcript included below.

Dr. Jeff Whitehead: 

The length of time to whiten your teeth sort of depends on what you’re using. I think the Zoom Light, which is something that we have, but really I personally don’t use, I’ve used it some years ago, only takes maybe 30 minutes.

And, then if you use things like whitening strips, they take somewhat longer, depending on how white you want to get your teeth and our trays that we put our whitening material in, you should be able to tell a difference within five days. Now, things like two twining toothpaste, think the jury’s kind of out on that, the length of time, but I discussed this with the hygienist yesterday and they thought should be able to see some difference within a week or so.

Is teeth whitening bad for your teeth?

Answer provided by Dr. Jeff Whitehead, DDS. Transcript included below.

Dr. Jeff Whitehead: 

It is not. Been a lot of talk how to demineralize teeth and whatnot, but I don’t think there’s any validity to that. I’ll tell you what it can do and you have to be careful with this, especially with the Zoom whitening, the light. If you do it too long, it can make your teeth very, very sensitive. And, that’s the reason that I don’t particularly use that method.

Where can I get my teeth whitened?

Answer provided by Dr. Jeff Whitehead, DDS. Transcript included below.

Dr. Jeff Whitehead: 

Well, we certainly think the best place to get your teeth whitened is in a dental office either via the custom trays that we make or, and here again, the Zoom Light whitening. You can use the white strips at home. You can use the toothpaste at home and I think and I could be wrong, there are some other venues for tooth whitening in things like the shopping malls.

How long does teeth whitening last?

Answer provided by Dr. Jeff Whitehead, DDS. Transcript included below.

Dr. Jeff Whitehead:

That depends a lot on your personal habits. Things you eat, whether or not you smoke, given all those things, it should last several months. And, then typically what we tell patients, they need to touch it up maybe every three months or whenever they notices the teeth becoming more stained or darker.

What should you eat after teeth whitening?

Answer provided by Dr. Jeff Whitehead, DDS. Transcript included below.

Dr. Jeff Whitehead: 

You can eat pretty much anything you want to. However, you have to take into consideration the things like I was saying, some foods stain your teeth more readily than others. And, the type of things that I would think that you need to sort of stay away from are things like beets and red wine. Coffee, tea, cigarette, smoking. Most things that we eat, generally are fine.

Do teeth whitening strips work?

Answer provided by Dr. Jeff Whitehead, DDS. Transcript included below.

Dr. Jeff Whitehead:

They do, and some work better than others. We have some in our offices that work very well. I mean, you can buy them over the counter in drug stores and other retail facilities, and they work. It’s just some are better than others and some take longer time than others.

What is the best teeth whitening toothpaste?

Answer provided by Dr. Jeff Whitehead, DDS. Transcript included below.

Dr. Jeff Whitehead: 

Well, I had this conversation yesterday with both my hygienists and there’s a lot of controversy about that. But, they both agreed that Crest 3D White is the one that they recommend. And, I personally don’t have much of a preference, but so I had to go on their suggestion so that’s what I would suggest.

How long should you wear teeth whitening trays?

Answer provided by Dr. Jeff Whitehead, DDS. Transcript included below.

Dr. Jeff Whitehead: 

30 minutes. When we take impressions and make trays, that’s what we recommend to our patients.

What does the light do for teeth whitening?

Answer provided by Dr. Jeff Whitehead, DDS. Transcript included below.

Dr. Jeff Whitehead: 

The light really speeds up the tooth whitening process significantly, and there’s a certain amount of heat generated by the light. And, so it penetrates the surfaces of the enamel and like I said, it speeds up the process significantly.