In-office tooth whitening is a whitening procedure performed in the dentist’s office. It is designed to make the patient’s teeth up to five to seven shades brighter. Teeth discolor for a number of reasons; they may become stained or darkened by food, tobacco, injury or aging. Various methods of bleaching are available to alter the shade of the patient’s teeth to the preferred degree of whiteness, one appropriate to the patient’s age and coloring.
Advantages of In-Office Teeth Whitening
Over-the-counter tooth-whitening kits are less expensive than in-office treatments. However, there are advantages to in-office teeth-whitening procedures. These include:
- Constant professional supervision
- More rapid results
- Longer-lasting results
- Fewer sensitivity issues
The reason modern in-office whitening procedures control sensitivity more efficiently than previously used methods is that thicker peroxide gels have been developed. These gels adhere to the tooth enamel more effectively and don’t soak into the deeper levels teeth or into the gums. Also, in current procedures, desensitizers, such as potassium nitrate and fluoride are used to minimize discomfort.
In-Office Tooth Whitening Procedures
In-office teeth whitening involves either one or a series of one-hour appointments at a dentist’s office. Teeth will be examined and cleaned to make sure there are no cavities, loose fillings, gum problems or other issues that may be exacerbated by the bleaching process. During the in-office tooth-whitening process, the patient’s gums are covered to covered to minimize sensitivity. There are several whitening methods available today. Each process is different and can be customized to fit your specific needs and goals.
Professionally Applied Tooth-Whitening Products
These products have a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide, a whitening agent, than products patients may use at home. For this reason, they work more quickly, and often more thoroughly.
Laser or Light Treatment
Whitening solution is applied to the teeth and used in combination with a special light or laser. Because the use of laser light accelerates the bleaching process, results can usually be seen after one session.
Custom Mouth Tray
At times, the in-office part of the tooth-whitening process is limited to the creation of a custom mouthpiece or tray by the dentist, who then provides the patient with a peroxide-based whitening solution to use at home.
A patient who chooses to use whitening products in combination with at-home treatment is monitored by the dentist for results.
Stains Resistant to In-Office Whitening
While in-office tooth whitening can be a highly effective method of improving facial appearance, it is not helpful in all cases. Some tooth discoloration is resistant to in-office whitening methods, such as when teeth have been darkened by:
- Traumatic injury
- Tetracycline antibiotics
- Fluorosis (overexposure to fluoride)
- Aging, especially when front teeth become thin
For stains resistant to the high-concentration bleaches used for in-office whitening, dentists may recommend that patients use take-home bleaches or alternatives under professional supervision. This is often the case when darkening occurs on crowns, porcelain veneers, or bonded teeth,
Whitening procedures are effective but their results are not permanent. Depending on the procedure used, whitening may fade over time. Patients are advised to avoid food and drinks that may stain or darken the teeth in order to maintain tooth whiteness for as long as possible.
- Medline Plus
- National Institutes of Health
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- U.S. National Library of Medicine