Teeth whitening is an excellent way to achieve the pearly whites of your dreams. However, like every other dental treatment, its effects do not last forever and require consistency to prolong longevity.
On average, in-chair teeth whitening lasts about 2-3 years. But you can have whiter teeth longer by listening to your dentist’s instructions and doing your own touch-up whitening at home or in the clinic. Here’s the rundown:
What is teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure that uses a bleaching agent to lighten the color of teeth. It does not turn teeth completely brilliant white, but it can lighten teeth by several shades.
There are two main types of teeth whitening: in-office and at-home.
In-office teeth whitening is done by a dentist and uses a higher concentration of bleaching agent than at-home teeth whitening.
At-home teeth whitening kits are available over-the-counter and use a lower concentration of bleaching agent.
Both in-office and at-home teeth whitening can be effective, but the results may vary from person to person. Some people may see their teeth whiten significantly, while others may see only a slight improvement.
How is teeth whitening done?
Professional teeth whitening can be done in a dentist’s office in about an hour. The dentist will apply a teeth whitening gel containing about 25-40% hydrogen peroxide, then aim a special lamp at your teeth for three 20-minute intervals. The gel will be reapplied between intervals. Some dentists may also use lasers, which can accelerate or activate the whitening process. A protective barrier will be used to keep your lips, gums, and tongue away from the whitening gel so that it stays on your teeth.
After the procedure is complete, your dentist will give you custom-made whitening trays so that you can do follow-up touch-ups at home with bleaching solutions.
Here are the steps involved in professional teeth whitening:
- The dentist will take impressions of your teeth to create custom-made whitening trays.
- The dentist will apply a protective barrier to your gums and lips.
- The dentist will apply a teeth whitening gel to your teeth.
- The dentist will place the whitening trays over your teeth.
- The dentist will turn on a special lamp that will activate the whitening gel.
- The dentist will leave the lamp on for 20 minutes.
- The dentist will remove the lamp and the whitening trays.
- The dentist will repeat steps 5-7 two more times.
- The dentist will remove the whitening trays and the protective barrier.
- The dentist will polish your teeth.
Can I whiten my own teeth at home?
There are a number of over-the-counter teeth whitening products available, but it is important to note that these products are not regulated by the FDA. This means that there is no guarantee of their safety or effectiveness. In addition, some of these products may contain high levels of peroxide, which can be harmful to your teeth.
If you are considering whitening your teeth at home, it is important to talk to your dentist first. Your dentist can help you choose a safe and effective product and can also monitor your teeth for any signs of damage.
Here are some of the risks associated with teeth whitening at home:
- Tooth sensitivity: The peroxide in teeth whitening products can cause tooth sensitivity. This is usually temporary, but it can be uncomfortable.
- Gum irritation: The peroxide in teeth whitening products can also irritate your gums. This is usually mild, but it can be more severe in some people.
- Enamel damage: In rare cases, teeth whitening products can damage your enamel. This can make your teeth more susceptible to staining and decay.
If you have any concerns about teeth whitening, it is important to talk to your dentist.
How long does teeth whitening last?
Teeth whitening can last for about 2-3 years, but the results can vary from person to person. There are a few things you can do to prolong the results of teeth whitening, such as:
- Avoiding staining foods and drinks: Certain foods and drinks, such as coffee, tea, red wine, and berries, can stain your teeth. Avoiding these foods and drinks as much as possible can help to keep your teeth whiter for longer.
- Brushing and flossing regularly: Good oral hygiene is essential for keeping your teeth white. Brush and floss your teeth twice a day to remove plaque and bacteria, which can contribute to staining.
- Using a whitening toothpaste: Whitening toothpaste can help to remove stains and brighten your teeth. Look for a toothpaste that contains fluoride to help protect your teeth from cavities.
- Getting professional touch-ups: If you want to keep your teeth white, you may need to get professional touch-ups every few years. Your dentist can apply a stronger concentration of whitening agent to your teeth to remove any new stains.
It is also important to remember that teeth whitening is not a permanent solution. The effects of teeth whitening can fade over time, so it is important to maintain good oral hygiene habits to keep your teeth looking their best.
Who is teeth whitening not suitable for?
Teeth whitening is not suitable for people with:
- Intrinsic stains: Intrinsic stains are stains that are deep within the teeth. These stains are often caused by things like genetics, medications, or medical conditions. Teeth whitening is not effective at removing intrinsic stains.
- Cracks or other trauma to teeth: Teeth whitening can irritate the exposed dentin in teeth that have cracks or other trauma. This can cause sensitivity and pain.
- Tooth decay or severe gingivitis: Teeth whitening can irritate the gums and make tooth decay worse. If you have tooth decay or severe gingivitis, you should wait until your oral health is improved before getting teeth whitening.
- Ongoing orthodontic treatment: Teeth whitening can stain aligners and retainers. If you are currently undergoing orthodontic treatment, you should wait until your treatment is complete before getting teeth whitening.
If you are unsure if teeth whitening is right for you, talk to your dentist. They can assess your oral health and recommend the best treatment option for you.
Teeth whitening can be a great way to achieve a brighter smile. However, it is important to understand that the effects of teeth whitening do not last forever. By following the tips above, you can help to make your teeth whitening last longer and enjoy a brighter smile for years to come.
- Cvikl, B., Lussi, A., Moritz, A., & Flury, S. (2016). Enamel surface changes after exposure to bleaching gels containing carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. Operative dentistry, 41(1), E39-E47.