Clearly the most popular treatment provided by cosmetic dentists is tooth whitening. Every where we look these days, there seems to be an advertisement promoting another tooth whitening treatment. No wonder one of the questions we get asked most frequently is “Do they all work?’ The simple answer to this question is, essentially yes. Most products do work to one degree or another. All tooth whitening products approved by the FDA address the same basic causes of tooth discoloration, external staining, and they all use the same basic chemistry to accomplish the whitening effect.
The difference is amazing
The differences between over the counter and professional products lie in the ways that they are delivered or applied to the teeth and the length of time that the product has to stay in contact with the teeth in order to accomplish the whitening effect. Over the counter products all have a relatively low concentration of the active ingredient, carbamide peroxide, in order to minimize the risk of bleaching or damaging the gum tissue at the same time that they whiten the teeth. As a result of the low concentration of carbamide peroxide, the product needs to be applied to the teeth for a longer period of time in order to achieve the end result. This extended exposure time is not without consequence because it leads to extensive dehydration of the teeth. Excessive dehydration is the leading cause of the post whitening sensitivity that so many users of over the counter whitening products complain about.
Whiten and brighten:
Professionally applied whitening treatments such as Zoom Whitening or custom fitted bleaching trays effectively control the distribution of the bleaching gels in your mouth and protect your lips cheeks and gums from damage. This allows the use of much higher concentrations of the carbamide peroxide which in turn allows the final effect to be achieved in dramatically less time. The reduced treatment time is not only a convenience factor for the patient, but it significantly reduces the risk of post whitening sensitivity.
Zoom Whitening is my favorite professionally delivered tooth whitening system available on the market today. It is a process that involves three successive 20 minute applications of a very highly concentrated bleaching gel that is further accelerated by a very bright blue halogen lamp.
While all tooth whitening products are effective in eliminating external staining, none of them are very effective at brightening up teeth that are discolored as a result of internal staining. Internal staining is a problem which is usually caused by one of two major patterns. First is trauma to a front tooth, which then turns a reddish brown or gray. Second is by patients taking certain medications or antibiotics such as tetracycline as a young child. For patients who suffer from internally stained teeth, porcelain veneers are usually the best option to consider for improving the appearance of their smile.