Myth #1: Whitening systems that use a laser are the best way to whiten teeth

Truth: This is a tricky subject. The term ‘laser’ is used for certain whitening systems. The ‘laser’ part of the In-Office whitening process is typically an ultraviolet light or a mercury metal halide light. These lights are a wavelenth that is in or near the visible light spectrum. To put it more simply, these lasers are more akin to heavy duty lightbulbs than the heavy duty lasers we have come to use in other aspects of dentistry. It is in my opinion that the term ‘laser’ although technically true, is used instead of UV light or mercury metal halide light because it sounds more impressive, high tech, and increases patient acceptibility of the procedure. The theory behind the ‘laser’ is that it activates the whitening gel and enhances the effects. However, many research articles show that the ‘laser’ works primarily by dehydrating the teeth whichmakes them appear whiter temporarily. And, as the teeth rehydrate, the shade evens out giving a result similar to other bleaching materials. Studies also have shown that this process can increase tooth sensitivity in the process and may actually decrease the whitening effect. I have used systems with and without the ‘laser’ and in my opinion I find that overall patient satisfaction is greater when we DO NOT use the ‘laser’.

Myth #2: Certain name brand whitening systems are better than others

Truth: There are many whitening systems on the market and based on my experience in prescribing and using many of these products, I find that the major differences in whitening systems is the concentration of peroxide and whether the aformentioned ‘laser’ is used to enhance the effects. This is the breakdown of whitening materials: over-the-counter whitening systems cannot contain more than 10% carbamide peroxide (which is the active whitening agent) and In-Office whiteners can have a concentration from between 15-35%. The percentage of carbamide peroxide in In-Office whiteners depends on the company and the light used to enhance results is, as we mentioned before, up for debate. All whitening systems will result in whiter teeth (if you are a good candidate for teeth whitening). The difference is the length of time needed to achieve that result and the amount of sensitivity caused as a side effect. The higher the concentration of carbamide peroxide the faster you will see results.

Myth #3: In-Office teeth whitening takes 1 hour or less

Truth: I guess if you started the clock after…. #1. completing your medical history, #2. Examination of your teeth for restorations and cavities, #3. Polishing your teeth before placing whitening gel, #4. Placing the barriers on your gums and finally, #5. Applying the whitening gel… then maybe it would be an hour or less. Logistically, from the second you sit in the dental chair and begin the whitening process it takes about 2 hours from start to finish. Although, the actual amount of time that the gel is in contact with your teeth would be 45 minutes to an hour.

Myth #4: Your teeth will lighten 10 shades in one hour or less

Truth: This might be true if your teeth are the color mocha. In reality, the majority of peoples teeth are in the middle of the shade spectrum and do not see a drastic result such as 10 shades lighter. A realistic expectation would be 4-6 shades lighter for the average individual in one whitening sitting. 4-6 shades lighter when an individual starts in the middle of the shade spectrum will produce an outstanding, natural looking whitening result.

Myth #5: After I have my teeth whitened my teeth will be sensitive forever

Truth: The most commonly observed side effects of professionally applied peroxide products are temporary tooth sensitivity and the occasional irritation of gum tissues. Irritation of the gum tissue occurs when it is not correctly covered with a barrier material during the whitening process. Regarding the teeth, transient mild to moderate tooth sensitivity can occur in up to two-thirds of people during and after whitening treatment (which can last about 1-2 days). Sensitivity is generally related to the peroxide concentration of the material and the contact time (the stronger the concentration of peroxide and the longer applied, the more sensitivity). This is most likely the result of the easy passage of the peroxide through intact enamel and dentin to the nerve during a treatment interval. However, there have been no reported long-term adverse nerve problems when proper techniques are employed. The incidence and severity of tooth sensitivity may depend on the quality of the whitening material, the techniques used, and an individual’s response (genetics) to the whitening treatment methods and materials.

Myth #6: If I whiten my teeth too many times the enamel will become weaker

Truth:There have been reports of enamel damage to teeth, but apparently associated with the use of OTC whitening products. This damage may be related to the low pH (acidic) of the products and their overuse. Acids and tooth enamel do not mix well, often leading to tooth damage. A whitening gel should be as close to neutral on the pH scale as possible. A lot of science goes into the manufacturing of whitening products to control the pH and produce an effective gel, be very cautious of an unknown OTC whitening product. The take home point is, whether you are using OTC or professional grade whitening products, stick to whitening products of companies with good reputations and have professional supervision throughout the process.

Myth #7: After I whiten my teeth I will have to drink coffee and red wine through a straw otherwise my teeth will stain

Truth:You should stay away from dark beverages for the first two days after whitening because teeth are penetrable to stain. Your saliva has minerals in it that plug tubes leading from outside the tooth to the inside. The whitening process dissolves these plugs, leading to a tooth easily penetrable. Once the saliva reforms these plugs (~2 days) it is safe to drink dark beverages in moderation without consequence. As a side note, I myself am guilty of breaking the 2 day rule and have seen minimal stain relapse as a consequence.]]>

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