In the past decade, teeth whitening (also called teeth bleaching) has become a very popular cosmetic dental treatment. Teeth whitening treatments fall into three categories: treatment professionally applied in a dental office, treatments prescribed and dispensed by a dentist for patient home use, and over the counter bleaching trays.
The effectiveness of each of these varies and they all have the same possible side effects. Gum tissue irritation is a possibility with all three types of treatment and some patients experience tooth sensitivity that usually goes away as soon as the treatment is ended.
The most effective whitening treatment is a professionally applied treatment. This treatment is done in a dentist’s office using stronger bleaching agents which may be accelerated by using ultraviolet light. Results are immediate and the patient’s teeth will be several shades lighter after a single treatment. Gum irritation is minimized by protecting the gums with a rubber dam or by applying a protective gel.
Treatments prescribed and dispensed by a dentist are the next most effective treatment. These treatments use customized bleaching trays that do a better job of keeping the bleaching agent against the patient’s teeth and can have bleaching agents that are stronger than those available over the counter. In addition, because the trays are custom fitted for each patient, irritation of gum tissue is usually less of an issue. Four to six treatments are usually needed to achieve several shades of whitening.
Over the counter bleaching products are least effective, but also the least expensive option. These products can achieve noticeable results, but take somewhat longer than products prescribed by a dentist due to lower concentrations of bleaching agents. In addition, since the bleaching trays are designed to fit any patient, gum irritation is more likely to be an issue.
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