Teeth Whitening Basics

Brushing and flossing regularly doesn’t always guarantee a bright, picture-perfect smile. Many cosmetic and general dentists offer teeth whitening treatments that help to wipe out stains and bleach the teeth to a natural white or off-white shade. Teeth whitening procedures are now readily available at many cosmetic dental offices, medical spas and even some salons around the United States, but there are some important things you should know about this procedure. Read on to learn how teeth whitening works, and what to expect from your treatment:

Types of Teeth Whitening Treatments

There are two main types of teeth whitening treatments available – laser teeth whitening and power bleaching treatments. Both of these procedure take up to 45 minutes to perform, but may require up to two hours in some cases depending on how many teeth are being whitened. The most common types of teeth whitening treatments available include:
  • Brite Smile
  • Zoom! Teeth Whitening
  • Opalescence
  • At-home teeth whitening kits
Some of these treatments offer instant results, while others offer more gradual improvements. Bleaching treatments can also be applied on just a single tooth using a “walking bleach” procedure. The bleach is changed about once per week so that the tooth can resume its natural color.

How Teeth Whitening is Performed

To begin the teeth whitening procedure, the dentist applies a protective material to the gums and lips so that the teeth are completely isolated. This helps manage a more targeted treatment. Hydrogen peroxide is applied to the teeth to begin the bleaching process, and a high-intensity laser beam is then administered to the teeth to enhance the bleaching process. The teeth are whitened instantly and results can last for several weeks.
Many cosmetic dentists also offer teeth whitening kits that you can use at home. These work primarily to maintain the results of your in-office treatments and can help to progressively improve your smile over the following weeks and months.

Preparing for Teeth Whitening Treatments

If you are having your teeth professionally whitened for the first time, you will need to set up a consultation with your cosmetic dentist or general dentist so that they can review your dental records and make sure you are a good candidate for the procedure. Your dentist may take x-rays, complete a brief dental exam and address any large cavities in your teeth that may interfere with the treatment. They can also go over all the pros and cons of the procedure so that you know what you expect.
Teeth whitening procedures are typically not covered by dental insurance plans and costs can range from $150 to $500+ per treatment plan. Some dentists do offer patient financing options and private payment plans so that you can enjoy the benefits of the procedure on any budget. Over-the-counter tooth whitening products such as tooth whitening strips, whitening toothpaste and whitening paint can work in the short-term, but may not offer the same results as a professional treatment.
Learn more about teeth whitening treatments in our information guide, or consult with a cosmetic dentist in your area to find out if you are a good candidate for the treatment.