There’s a special place in my heart for teeth-whitening strips (and coffee), but when it comes to dramatically whitening a yellowed or stained smile in next to no time at all, cosmetic dentists agree that professional, in-office teeth whitening can’t be beat. “Unlike other cosmetic dental treatments available today, professional teeth whitening has the potential to dramatically enhance the appearance of someone’s smile in a single office visit without invasive procedures,” says New York cosmetic dentist Husam Almunajed, DDS.
But between laser- or light-activated whitening or chemically activated whitening, the options available in your dentist’s office can still seem pretty daunting. Here, the pros and cons to two of the most popular options, straight from the cosmetic dentists who perform them.
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Dr. Almunajed contends that teeth whitening is the number-one most requested-cosmetic dental procedure, “and to meet these demands, a variety of bleaching solutions and techniques have been developed, enabling shorter and more convenient treatments, more predictable results, and minimal side effects,” he adds.
“In-office teeth whitening is the preferred method because even though stronger agents are applied, the entire mouth—including gums—are protected and isolated for a precise treatments,” explains Dr. Almunajed. As a result, “teeth can literally brighten up to 10 shades in about an hour,” he adds.
Conversely, over-the-counter options often irritate the gums, and, according to professor and director of Graduate Operative Dentistry at UNC School of Dentistry, Harald Heymann, DDS, don’t actually include the proper heating system to be effective. “The ‘light-activated’ systems that you see so commonly nowadays do not use lasers, but rather blue lights or metal-halide light—none of which work,” says Dr. Heymann.
Laser or Light Activation
According to Dr. Almunajed, this type of whitening has soared in popularity over the last decade because of its quick, dramatic results. But, Austin, TX cosmetic dentist Elizabeth Lowery, DDS puts the pro/con of the technique simply: “The biggest pro to laser teeth whitening is that you get a whiter smiler faster; the biggest con is tooth sensitivity for some.”
During laser- or light-activated teeth whitening, your dentist will place a solution on the teeth, and a laser, light or heating source is then added to accelerate the reaction between the whitening solution and the surface stains found on the teeth. “This causes the teeth to be dehydrated and in many instances increase the internal temperature of the teeth,” explains Dr. Almunajed. “This then causes the internal fluid to seep out of the teeth, to cause what we know as sensitivity,” he adds. However, not all in-office whitening requires such heat or light.
There are additional teeth whitening-treatments that don’t utilize the popular light-or-laser method, and, according to top dentists, they tend to work better with little to no sensitivity. “Chemically activated in-office whitening works differently than laser-activation, which is intended more for surface stains. Instead, it actually brightens and whitens the tooth structure and fights the internal stains,” says Dr. Almunajed.
In this case, the refrigerated whitening solution is applied to the teeth two to three times for 20 minute sessions each. “Teeth whitening can often be frustrating and unpredictable, but we’ve found that this process has been able to deliver predictable, exceptional results with little to no discomfort.”
If you’re interested in brightening up your smile, a conversation with your dentist will help guide you to the proper choice to properly care for your set of pearly whites.