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Teeth Whitening

Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening is an easy cosmetic dental procedure that can brighten your smile by about 5-10 shades. While whitening toothpaste and some over the counter whiteners can remove superficial stains, professional teeth whitening works by removing stains from both the outer layer (enamel) and middle layer (dentin) of your teeth. In as little as one office visit, you can erase years of stains from your teeth and restore their pearly white color.

Did You Know?

Having a great smile is one of the main components of an attractive face. In a recent study, people found women with a great smile more attractive than women wearing full makeup. Since the color of your smile is one of the main factors associated with having a great smile, teeth whitening is an easy way to improve your smile.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I need professional teeth whitening?


Man before and after teeth whitening procedure
You may benefit from professional teeth whitening if you are looking for an easy, non-invasive way to improve your smile. You may also benefit from professional teeth whitening if you wish to remove stains or discolorations from your teeth. However, individuals with decayed teeth, gum disease, sensitivity to whitening agents, or who are pregnant may not benefit from teeth whitening. To find out if professional teeth whitening is a good option for you, schedule a consultation with one of our dentists at Bethesda Family Dentistry today!

How does professional teeth whitening work?

Professional teeth cleaning works by removing stains from both your enamel and dentin layers. The enamel is the hardest and outermost layer of your teeth. Stains that affect the enamel are called extrinsic stains and are usually caused by external factors such as consuming highly pigmented foods and beverages, smoking, and poor dental hygiene habits. The dentin layer is the porous layer that lies below the enamel. Stains affecting the dentin layer are called intrinsic stains and are caused by aging, tetracycline-based antibiotics, and excess fluoride. Because intrinsic stains lie below the surface layer of your teeth, no amount of brushing can remove them.

During a professional teeth whitening treatment, concentrations of carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide are used to produce an oxidation reaction in the enamel and dentin layers of your teeth. This oxidation reaction breaks down the chemical bonds of the molecules responsible for discoloring your teeth. The more chemical bonds that are oxidized and broken down, the whiter your teeth will look.

What can I expect when receiving tooth whitening services at Bethesda Family Dentistry?

When having your teeth professionally whitening at Bethesda Family Dentistry, you can expect to first have your teeth properly cleaned to remove any plaque, tartar, or debris, and ensure a smooth and even application of the whitening agents. Then, your lips and gums will be prepared by being isolated or protected from the whitening agents that will be applied to your teeth.

Teeth whitening with trays

Once your mouth has been prepared with a teeth cleaning and protecting you lips and gums, the whitening agent will be applied to the surface of your teeth. It will then be left in place for several minutes, usually 30-60 minutes. Some whitening treatments use a special light to activate the whitening agents, and others do not. After the whitening agents have sat on your teeth for the allotted amount of time, they will be rinsed off with water and your teeth will be polished.

What can I expect after my teeth whitening procedure?

After your teeth whitening procedure, it is normal to experience some tooth sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, as well as sugar, for a few days after your procedure. You may also have some gum irritation. Both the tooth sensitivity and gum irritations should disappear within a few days.

After having your teeth whitened, you will also need to avoid exposing your teeth to staining agents for at least 24 hours. This is because the whitening agents will continue to work for up to 24 hours, and to get the best results you should avoid exposing your teeth to new stains. Possible staining agents include highly pigmented foods and beverages like coffee, tea, wine, cola, ketchup, chili sauce, steak sauce, colored fruits, red meats, and basically anything that produces a strong tint of color when you chew.

Most teeth whitening results can last up to three years after your treatment. However, the actual time it lasts will depend upon your oral and personal habits. For example, if you take medications that cause teeth discoloration, the results will likely last for less time. To keep your teeth whitening results lasting for as long as possible, be sure to brush twice daily for two minutes with a whitening toothpaste, floss once daily, and visit Bethesda Family dentistry once every six months for your professional teeth cleaning.

If I have dental restorations, like fillings or crowns, can I have my teeth whitened?

Yes, you can have your teeth whitened even if you have fillings or crowns. However, fillings and crowns will not react to the whitening agents the same way your teeth will because they are made from dental materials. Because of this, they will remain their original color while the rest of your teeth will whiten around them. For some people, this isn’t a problem because the restorations are not easily visible. However, if your restoration is visible you may need to consider having your teeth whitened before having the restoration placed or having the restoration replaced after having your teeth whitened. Our dentists can help you decide what course of action will work best for your individual needs.

Woman smiling with white teeth

Is teeth whitening safe?

Yes, teeth whitening is considered to be a safe dental treatment. Teeth whitening uses carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide as the active ingredient, and both these chemical compounds are similar to water in their chemical composition. In fact, hydrogen peroxide is one molecule away from water and carbamide peroxide breaks down into hydrogen peroxide. After these molecules are oxidized during the whitening treatment, they will be simply break down into water and be absorbed by the body.

Does teeth whitening have any risks?

Teeth whitening, like any other dental procedure, does have some minor risks involved. One of the most commonly occurring risks is prolonged tooth sensitivity. People who already have sensitive teeth, cracked teeth, leaky restorations, or gum recession are at more of a risk for developing prolonged sensitivity and should start brushing with a sensitivity toothpaste prior to their whitening treatment to decrease this risk.

Other possible risks of teeth whitening include gum irritation and technicolor teeth. Gum irritation can occur if the whitening agent touches the gums and will usually fade within a few days. Technicolor teeth occurs when a dental restoration is in place that does not match the color of the newly whitened teeth. To prevent technicolor teeth from happening, you may need to have your restoration replaced after your teeth are whitened. Conversely, you can also have your teeth whitened prior to having the restoration placed, whichever comes first.

For a qualified, experienced, and caring approach to crowns & bridges, schedule a consultation with one of our dentists at either our Ferndale Bethesda Family Dentistry office in Bethesda or our Executive Bethesda Family Dentistry office in North Bethesda.  

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