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Everything to Know About Laser Teeth Whitening

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It’s time to drop the whitening trays, strips, brushes and toothpaste—the answer to your yellowing teeth is finally here: laser teeth whitening. It’s not only safe and shockingly quick, but it whitens your teeth in a shorter period of time than most of the products you have piled up in your drawers. It’s time to declutter your quarantine-induced Amazon Prime orders and book a future appointment for a brighter smile. 

Bright Benefits
The opportunity to customize the shade of your teeth is right at your fingertips. Chevy Chase, MD cosmetic dentist Claudia Cotca, DDS says this is the biggest upside of investing in laser teeth whitening: “The greater benefits of laser whitening in the hands of experienced and skilled clinicians is obtaining the correct shade a patient wants with minimal or no clinical toxicity combined with minimal procedure time. I customize my patient’s treatment based on the clinical findings and the patient’s expectations.” In terms of cons, cost is the biggest factor as to why everyone isn’t making an appointment. However, it’s not overvalued, “given the potency of the treatment, clinician skills, experience and training,” says Dr. Cotca. 

Bye-Bye Enamel
How does this magic treatment work? “Laser whitening is a whitening process that removes the stains inside the enamel tubules starting at the surface of the visible tooth structure. It activates a product for ideal and optimal penetration to adhere to the stain particles and essentially extracts them out,” says Dr. Cotca. In simpler terms, it removes unclean and unhealthy tissues, leaving the area free of the particles that are negatively impactful. This kind of whitening is not just surface-level. “The laster penetrates the enamel and whitens up to twelve shades,” says New York cosmetic dentist Pia Lieb, DDS.

Respect the Spectrum
“There are multiple systems available which are laser—not LED, UV, or PLASMA light— activated whitening also administered in-office,” says Dr. Cotca. But, knowing the spectrum of your whitening choices is important in making the right decision for the best outcome. “At-home whitening strips, over the counter gels, and toothpastes are typically very weak when compared to the products an experienced clinician can use in treatment,” Dr. Cotca explains. If it doesn’t contain the secret ingredient peroxide, it will not whiten, notes Dr. Lieb. 

Who, Me?
Not everyone is the right candidate for laser whitening—the ideal candidate has healthy tissue, tooth surface and gums. “Also, if you have fillings, crowns or veneers, those do not whiten,” says Dr. Lieb. “If you don’t fit these parameters, other necessary adjunct therapies are best prior to whitening treatments,” Dr. Cotca says. “Many have tried to circumvent health parameters, and it has been proven that physiological parameters of health and aesthetics cannot be violated if optimal results are expected with minimal cost possible.”

Results to Expect
The results of laser teeth whitening can last up to three years without fading. “Some patients do need 1-2 sessions to obtain complete optimal results, but not to observe a significant change. Immediate change has always been very obvious in all my patient treatments,” notes Dr. Cotca. It’s crucial to follow specific dietary orders to ensure your treatment lives up to expectations—drinking colored substances like coffee, wine or green juice may be off your radar for a while. No matter how much of a drag that is, you’re spending between $900 and $1,400 so you’ll definitely want to stretch out your investment.

Safe Space
The most-asked question of them all: Does it hurt? The straight-forward answer is no. “Sensitivity can be present for various reasons, most of which involve clinical conditions of the enamel, type of tooth surface and gum position. All of these need to be incorporated in the treatment sequence and customization protocol,” advises Dr. Cotca. Sometimes, like any whitening treatment, sensitivity can linger for a few days. The smartest way to avoid this is by listening to your dentist’s instructions (i.e wearing your retainer, brushing your teeth twice a day, or wearing a mouthguard if you’re prone to grinding). 

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