All the Teeth Whitening FAQs You Need to Know

October 3, 2017 - 16 minutes read

Having a beautiful white smile is everyone’s dream, but so few people have perfect teeth. It may seem like every Hollywood celebrity has naturally gorgeous teeth, but the truth is that you are seeing the results of lots of expensive dental work every time they step onto the red carpet. For non-celebs like all of us, having a healthy smile is the best way to have a beautiful smile. Once you have a healthy smile, though, there are a few cosmetic dentistry procedures that can help you get that extra boost of confidence. Teeth whitening is a common procedure here in Lansdowne that helps patients feel like a million bucks when they walk out the door.

But there are a lot of misconceptions about teeth whitening that makes it hard for some to understand why this procedure is best when performed by a teeth whitening specialist. We are going to answer a few of the most commonly asked questions about teeth whitening that we come across and help you understand why your dentist in Lansdowne is the best person to help you achieve your dream smile.

Can I Get My Teeth Whitened?

One of the first things that most people want to know is if their teeth are suitable for whitening procedures. The answer is that in most cases, there are not many reasons why you wouldn’t be. As long as your teeth and gums are healthy, you are likely a good candidate for teeth whitening.

There are certain types of stains that may not be lifted by professional teeth whitening procedures. Yellow stains are the easiest to lift. Brown and grey stains may not lift at all. If you have significant brown or grey staining, we may suggest a different type of cosmetic dentistry procedure to cover these teeth, such as a porcelain veneer.

Another consideration for teeth whitening is whether or not you have fillings, veneers, or crowns. These prosthetics do not change color when bleached, so if your teeth are whitened, your fillings or crowns will now stand out in an unattractive way. Should you decide you want your teeth whitened while you have any of these, we may need to also replace the filling or crown.

Does Teeth Whitening Cause Sensitivity?

This is the most common misconception about teeth whitening that we have heard in our office in Lansdowne. Here are the facts:

Teeth that are already sensitive may experience heightened sensitivity due to tooth whitening agents being introduced to the enamel. If you have sensitive teeth, you can likely expect some increase in sensitivity.

It is very common to experience a few days of sensitivity after having a tooth whitening procedure performed. However, long-term sensitivity has not been linked to teeth whitening agents. While it would not be uncommon to experience long-term sensitivity after a cosmetic dentistry procedure, it is not a given, and you are just as likely to not experience any side effects.

How Many Shades Whiter Can I Go?

Teeth whitening is a surprisingly personal process, with everyone’s teeth reacting just a bit differently to the chemical agent. It is a lot like sun tanning – everyone gets a different shade of tan depending on their skin, how long they were in the sun, what types of skin care they use, and so on. While some people will get super bright teeth instantly, others will only experience a shade or two lighter the first time.

One thing that can have a big impact on how white your teeth get is how old you are. The older you are, the more set-in the stains become, and the harder it is for chemical agents to change the appearance of your teeth.

Are Professional Tooth Whitening Products Better than Supermarket White Strips?

In short: yes. Dentists have access to much stronger chemical agents for whitening, and we can ensure that you are whitening your teeth in a healthy way that will protect your gums and teeth. For example, we recommend having a deep cleaning performed by your dentist in Lansdowne first, before whitening, because it ensures that nothing will get in the way of the whitening agent and your teeth.

Another concern is that over-the-counter whiteners are not always regulated by any sort of medical or public health program. This means that they can contain ingredients that will irritate the soft tissue inside your mouth.

What Is the Procedure Like?

At Lansdowne Dental Care, we offer three procedures for teeth whitening. The first is the GLO Whitening system. This system takes about 30 minutes in our office, so you could easily get a whole new smile on your lunch break! We first apply a whitening gel to your teeth and your gums to protect them. Then we shine a concentrated beam at your teeth that activates the gel, which begins to break down the stains underneath the enamel. This system routinely gets teeth about nine shades lighter on average. We also offer in-office Zoom! whitening, which gives you results in just one visit.

The third method we offer is a take-home system of trays and whitening gel. These are customized trays that fit your smile perfectly, which you will use for either three or seven days depending on the system we choose for your specific needs. Both of these systems are designed to reduce sensitivity, unlike over-the-counter bleaching kits. These systems routinely get teeth about seven shades lighter on average.

How Long Will Whitening Last?

A professional teeth whitening procedure from a cosmetic dentist can last for up to a year if properly cared for. Most people experience beautifully white smiles for a minimum of four months, but you can easily make this much longer with a bit of careful aftercare. It is very important that you maintain a great oral hygiene routine and visit the dentist regularly to maintain the whitening. But some other things you can do to stretch the whitening include:

  • Limit how often you drink dark soda, coffee, tea, or red wine. If you must consume these things, do it through a straw.
  • Stop smoking or chewing tobacco. If you must, limit your consumption as much as possible.
  • Avoid acidic foods such as energy drinks, soda, lots of citric fruit, and sticky sweets.
  • For the first two days after teeth whitening, avoid all of the above completely.

Keep in mind that as we age, teeth naturally become more yellow as the enamel thins. The older you get, the harder it will be for teeth whitening to make a huge difference. At that point, your dentist in Lansdowne may recommend another cosmetic dentistry procedure. But limiting your acidic food intake and protecting your enamel by avoiding habits such as chewing your fingernails or eating ice, can help.

How Often Can I Get My Teeth Whitened?

There are a lot of differing opinions out there on how often a person can whiten their teeth. The truth is that you can definitely go overboard and start to damage your teeth if you whiten too often. Some dentists say that bleaching once every three months is acceptable; others suggest yearly touch-ups as needed. Still, others suggest that once or even twice per month to maintain a specific shade is okay.

A good rule of thumb is that if your teeth match the whites of your eyes, then you should not be bleaching your teeth. Once they no longer match, then ask your dentist if it is the right time to re-bleach your teeth. Because everyone’s oral health is different, there is no hard and fast rule for how often you could safely bleach your teeth.

Are There Any Hidden Concerns I Should Know About?

There are a few things that most people have never heard about teeth whitening that we like to inform our patients of before we begin. For example, the reason that we do not recommend teeth whitening to patients with gum disease or receding gums is that during the whitening procedure, the gum line can begin to look yellowed than the tooth itself. It is common to see a person with white teeth and a yellow line directly at the gums because they did not ensure that their gums were healthy before bleaching their teeth. To prevent this, healthy gums are the top priority before we bleach.

Another little-known fact from your teeth whitening specialist is that you won’t see the true whiteness of your teeth right away. It takes about two weeks for your teeth to fully lighten after an in-office procedure. What you see as you walk out the door is just the start!

Finally, you should know that it is not uncommon to see blotchy, uneven coloration if you are using the take-home system. Areas on the teeth of decalcification respond to bleaching more rapidly, so it takes a bit for the rest of the tooth to catch up. Don’t be alarmed, however. Once you have finished the treatment, the blotchiness will fade and your teeth will regain a uniform appearance.

Will My Insurance Cover the Cost of Teeth Whitening?

In most cases, no. Teeth whitening is considered a purely cosmetic dentistry procedure, and most dental insurance plans do not cover it. However, teeth whitening is an affordable procedure that can give you a huge confidence boost for months or even a year. Consider it the equivalent of a year’s worth of salon appointments, and you will likely see that it is very accessible. There are some rare dental insurance carriers that do pay for part of a whitening procedure. We can help you determine if that is the case for you during your initial consultation.

Do Teeth Whitening Agents Damage Any Part of the Tooth?

There are many rumors flying around that teeth whitening agents can damage the enamel or the tooth nerve itself. Here are the facts:

Studies have shown that the carbamide peroxide product used by professional cosmetic dentists does not have any impact on the enamel of a tooth. We use a safe percentage of carbamide peroxide to ensure that your enamel is protected.

There is also no evidence that tooth whitening will damage a tooth’s nerve. In fact, studies have shown that no individual who had had tooth whitening within both a four-year and seven-year follow-up, needed any sort of restorative dentistry procedures on a tooth that had been whitened. The root was healthy in all cases.

So, you do not need to worry about teeth whitening doing any damage to your teeth. All across the country, millions of adults have their teeth whitened every day, and none have shown any signs of damaged enamel or damaged tooth roots due to the whitening.

While tooth whitening products do make it hard to keep your smile matched up if you have dental restorations like veneers or crowns, it is important to note that the bleaching process will not actually damage these restorations. There is no danger to using a bleaching agent with a crown, veneer, or filling. But you will have to decide how you want to handle the mismatched smile after. One way is to have the restoration replaced with a new one that matches your new smile. We can help you decide if this is the best option for you.

Learn More from Our Tooth Whitening Specialist in Lansdowne

Do you have more questions about teeth whitening? Are you ready to schedule an appointment? As your dentist in Lansdowne, we are always ready to help you get the dazzling smile you’ve been dreaming of. We can walk you through a no-obligation consultation to decide which method would be best for you, and find the perfect aftercare plan for your needs and goals. Contact us at Lansdowne Dental Care by calling 703-723-7810, or get in touch with us online.