TEETH WHITENING: Some basic information

Dr. Carlos A. Alonso, DDS

What is Teeth Whitening?

Whitening your teeth is a way to brighten your smile. When patients have discolored or stained teeth, whitening can be a great choice. Teeth whitening is a simple, non-invasive way to brighten up your smile. Simply whitening your teeth can give you a more youthful appearance.

Teeth are porous because they are made up of many tubules. It is these tubules that can lead to staining and cause teeth to get darker over time. Whitening gel is dispersed into the same tubules that the stain is located in and breaks up the stain giving your teeth a whiter appearance.

Is Teeth Whitening for me?

Teeth whitening is an excellent option for somebody wanting to have a whiter smile. Patients that are happy with the shape, size, and position of their teeth but wanting whiter teeth are excellent candidates for teeth bleaching. Teeth whitening is an excellent option for anybody wanting a non-invasive way to whiten a smile.

Who is a good candidate for Teeth Whitening?

Many adults are excellent candidates for teeth whitening, however, there are instances where whitening may not be recommended. It is important that you have a dentist evaluate your teeth before whitening as you may not be an ideal candidate.

Patients that already have restorations (crowns, veneers or fillings) on front teeth can sometimes be poor candidates for whitening if they are not planning on replacing the restorations. Teeth that have dental crowns, porcelain veneers or fillings will not whiten. The entire crown or porcelain veneer will stay the same color while the surrounding teeth without restorations will whiten. Teeth with tooth-colored fillings will whiten, however, the filling will remain the same color, thus possibly making a filling stand out. If the dental crowns, porcelain veneers or fillings are already lighter than the teeth, you may consider whitening trays because you have more control over how light your teeth get. If the restorations are the same color or darker than the teeth already are, you can consider replacing the restorations after whitening. Ultimately, before placing restorations on teeth that are visible in your smile, you want to consider whitening first so that the porcelain or bonding can be matched to the shade of your teeth.

It is best to wait until the age of 16 to consider whitening teeth. Children under 16 have teeth that are still developing and more prone to sensitivity.

Patients with tetracycline stained teeth often make poor candidates for whitening. Teeth with tetracycline staining are very difficult to whiten. Tetracycline is an antibiotic that can cause discoloration of teeth if teeth are still in their developmental stages (during pregnancy or as a young child). It is important that a patient understand this before attempting to whiten their teeth. Alternatives such as porcelain veneers or porcelain crowns may be a better alternative.

Any patient with an allergy to peroxide should avoid whitening as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide are the agents used to whiten teeth.

Patients with decayed teeth, hypersensitive teeth, or gum disease should be evaluated by a dentist before whitening. Depending on the severity of the decay, hypersensitivity, or gum disease, it may be best to avoid tooth whitening.

Pregnant patients and patients that are nursing should not whiten their teeth.

Where can I get my teeth whitened?

While there are many over-the-counter options to professional whitening, they are often unpredictable. Dr. Carlos Alonso at Alonso Family Dental is a dentist in the Missouri City/Sugar Land area located across from Sienna Plantation that provides high quality whitening services. Dr. Alonso will first perform an exam to ensure that you are a good candidate for whitening and discuss all of your options with you.

What are my options for getting a whiter smile?

  • Whitening Strips: These are excellent for somebody wanting to try whitening for the first time. The strips are placed over the teeth for 15-20 minutes a day for about two weeks. A benefit of these is the cost which is $80 for 20 strips.
  • Whitening trays: Whitening trays are custom made for each patient. The patient then takes home the trays and whitening gel. Each evening, the patient will wear the trays for 30 minutes (this number can vary depending on the strength of the gel). The benefit of trays is that they produce excellent results. In general, trays produce better results than whitening strips and results that are fairly equal to In-office whitening. Another benefit of trays is that they can be used in the future to “touch up” before an event like a wedding, reunion, or just because. The cost to replace the whitening gel is significantly reduced if you already have the trays. In our office, you receive two tubes of whitening gel for $30. A negative aspect of whitening trays is that they require discipline to wear them every evening for two weeks. If you have the patience to wait on your teeth to get whiter, whitening trays are an excellent choice. Our price for whitening trays is $265. We typically have a $100 off whitening trays which would bring the total to $165. From time to time, we run whitening tray specials for $99. Existing patients receive an email when these specials are coming up, and we also post it on our Facebook page. Nationally, the average cost of whitening trays is about $400.
  • In-Office Whitening: In-office whitening is an excellent option for patients that want immediate results. The procedure usually takes about 1 hour and a half to 2 hours in our office. The whitening gel is placed on the teeth for three 20 minute sessions. When you are done, your teeth are whiter. In our office, we also make you whitening trays so you can touch up in the future. This is something that most offices do not do. Dr. Alonso believes that combining in-office whitening with whitening trays often produces the best results. The cost for in-office whitening in our office is $424. We typically have a $100 off in-office whitening which would bring the total to $324. Nationally, the average cost of in-office whitening is about $650 without the additional trays.
  • Internal Bleaching: When a single tooth has had a root canal, it can sometimes become very dark and discolored. In these cases, a procedure called internal bleaching can be done to lighten the color of the tooth. The bleach is placed inside of the tooth and changed every couple of days until the desired result is achieved. Since the tooth already has a root canal, no anesthesia is needed. The cost for internal bleaching is $311.
Teeth Whitening Treatments - Internal Bleaching of a Single Canine Tooth
Internal Bleaching of a Single Canine Tooth Before & After

Costs for whitening can vary greatly from office to office and can exceed $1,000 at times. It is important for patients to understand what type of whitening procedure they are receiving so that they know what they are paying for. Many patients ask about whitening toothpastes. We have not found any toothpaste that is nearly as effective as the listed whitening procedures.

How long does Teeth Whitening last?

Teeth whitening does not last forever. How long it lasts depends on your oral hygiene habits as well as your diet. Patients that have good oral hygiene habits typically have white teeth for longer. Patients that smoke or drink red wine or coffee frequently tend to need touch-ups more frequently.

Does Teeth Whitening damage your teeth?

Teeth whitening does not damage your teeth. While there can be some degree of sensitivity with teeth whitening, it does not damage your teeth if done properly. It is important to have an examination done before having your teeth whitened to ensure that you are a good candidate.

Some people have teeth that are a little more prone to sensitivity to whitening gels. Luckily, there are things that can be done to avoid discomfort. Fluoride or potassium nitrate can be placed on your teeth after the procedure to minimize or eliminate sensitivity. While sensitivity is a possibility, it is short-term and does not cause permanent damage to your teeth.

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