In-Office: Laser & Light Options

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In-office light-based or laser professional whitening can quickly, and easily, erase yellow and brown stains in as little as an hour. Considering that most teeth fall within a range of 16 different shades, in-office whitening can be a great smile-makeover option. “Professional, in-office whitening offers faster and often more dramatic results than ordinary over-the-counter whitening products because of the type and concentration of whitening gel,” says Charlotte, NC, cosmetic dentist Patrick Broome, DMD. Those with healthy, strong teeth and enamel tend to garner the best results with professional bleaching. During the treatment, your dentist will put a protective gel or rubber shield on your gums before the whitening agent is applied to your teeth.

A special light that activates the bleach may be used to accelerate the process. However, if you’ve undergone any type of porcelain restoration, like veneers or crowns, bleaching will not whiten them. You can expect your teeth to look anywhere from two to eight shades whiter after just one treatment. But according to Atlanta cosmetic dentist Ronald Goldstein, DDS, if your teeth are dark brown, blue or gray, expecting an eight-shade result in one treatment may not be realistic. Instead, he recommends more in-office treatments, or a combination of an in-office visit and four weeks of at-home matrix bleaching for best results.

“There isn’t a major difference in the method or results from the different activators, it’s whatever activates the bleach,” says Dr. Ronald Goldstein in reference to the specific wavelengths manufacturers use to activate a corresponding bleaching solution. “Some in-office solutions don’t even require light at all,” he adds.

1. Laser (infrared diode laser) Ezlase

Pro: Because high-powered lasers are easily controlled each tooth only gets exposed to the laser 30 seconds at a time for a total of 20 minutes. This drastically reduces time spent in the chair, about 30 minutes total including whitening gel application.

Con: The smaller light source from this laser only illuminates from four to five teeth simultaneously. And since laser devices are some of the most expensive, not many offices have them.

2. LED (Light Emitting Diode) LumaCool

Pro: Since LEDs produce light by converting electricity into light rather than heating metal filaments like more traditional light sources, this lessens the amount of heat generated thereby increasing patient comfort during the treatment.

Con: The gentler light requires a more potent concentration of hydrogen peroxide (35 percent) to achieve good results, and the stronger the solution is the more it increases tooth and gum sensitivity.

3. Ultra Violet Light (Zoom)

Pro: Zoom’s ultraviolet light doesn’t emit that much heat because an infrared filter is used to reduce it. Reduced heat equals less pain.

Con: Small amounts of UVB light emitted from the Zoom lamp can burn uncovered tissue. Make sure your dentist protects all of the soft tissue in and around the mouth with a barrier.

4. Plasma Arc light (BriteSmile)

Pro: This light emits little to no heat and no ultraviolet light, and it gets the job done with less intense bleaching agents as it is matched with a solution containing only 15 percent hydrogen peroxide. Most in-office bleaching agents run in concentrations of 25 percent or higher.

Con: Though clinically proven safe for the teeth, skin and gums, a small percentage of patients may experience temporarily increased tooth sensitivity, as with most whitening procedures

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