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We all want that Hollywood smile with big, white and shinny teeth. But most of us live in the real world filled with teeth staining necessities like coffee, tea, soda and maybe an occasional glass of merlot. So what do we normal folks do to get that Hollywood smile? Having a beautiful smile may be even easier than you think. Many people achieve the look they’ve been dreaming of with our simple bleaching procedure. In this month’s blog I will cover how teeth whitening works, when to bleach, the available options, and teeth sensitivity?

How does teeth whitening (bleaching) work?

To understand how teeth whitening works, one has to understand how teeth become discolored. There are two types of discoloration: extrinsic and intrinsic. Your normal teeth brushing with whitening toothpaste will help remove the daily extrinsic stains (think surface staining) left from coffee, tea and red wine. Intrinsic (below the enamel) staining is caused by years of exposure to these staining substances and is harder to change. Teeth whitening will unfortunately not work on any teeth with dental bonding or crowns, make sure to check with us before moving forward.

First we take an impression of your teeth, then in only a day or two your custom bleach splints will be ready for you to pick up. We provide you with a special bleaching agent that you put into the clear splints. With only a few hours of wear per day, our special bleaching agent bubbles stains right out of your enamel in a very short time without altering tooth structure or existing dental work in any way. When your teeth reach the desired brightness, only occasional treatment is needed to maintain your new smile.

So how do teeth whitening agents get the stains out from “inside” your tooth? Most whitening gels (or sometimes called bleaching agents) contain an oxidizing agent in the form of carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. These ingredients are the active ingredient in most whitening agents. The gel reacts with the internal aspect of your tooth, mixes with the discolored areas, and breaks them apart making them appear whiter! We use a brand of whitening products called Opalescence. More information can be found on their website here.

When to whiten?

If you are having dental work done to your front teeth, you would typically bleach first, then once you reach your desired shade, wait one week to allow them to stabilize before having dental work done. Have a wedding coming up? Whiten at least one month before the big day!

What are my teeth whitening options?

Make sure you talk with your dental professional to see what’s best for you, but here are your teeth whitening options:

Professional take home trays – Pros: Works for long term results, accurate to your teeth, decreased sensitivity, convenient.  Cons: more expensive than over the counter

White Strips – Pros: Cheap, can whiten a few shades Cons: misses areas between and around teeth, gets on gums, not as effective as professional take home trays

In office bleaching – Pros: Quick results Cons: Not as effective long term, sensitivity issues, lights and lasers not that affective in “whiter teeth,” expensive

My teeth are sensitive when I bleach!

If your teeth are sensitive during bleaching there may be an underlying cause, so as always, talk with your dental professional. If you have traditionally had sensitive teeth, use a desensitizing toothpaste containing potassium nitrate (Sensodyne, Crest Sensi relief, etc.) for at least one month before whitening. Also tell your dentist if you are having sensitivity, as he or she may be able to lower the percentage concentration of the whitening product. Check out our blog on toothpaste selection here.

If you want whiter teeth, know that you have many options. There is no one best option for all, so give us a call and find out which product will work best for you.

Keep smiling Chicago.

Kevin Dow


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