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Tooth Whitening |

What Causes Discoloration? | Chair-side Bleaching | In-home Bleaching |
Who Can Benefit? | How Long Whitening Lasts?

What Causes Discoloration?

While people have different colors of skin and hair, they also have genetic differences in tooth color. Some teeth are more yellow, while others yellow with aging. Natural tooth color can be discolored by a number of causes. The surface of the teeth can be stained by tobacco, coffee, tea, berries and other foods as well as by deposits of calculus (which is better known as tartar).

Discoloration of the tooth internally can also result from aging, injuries, excessive fluoride, certain illnesses and taking antibiotic tetracycline during early childhood. Although bleaching successfully lightens most discolorations, certain types (like those caused by tetracycline) are more difficult to remove.

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Chairside Bleaching

There are two types of bleaching procedures. Bleaching may be done completely in the dental office (known as “chairside bleaching”) or a system may be dispensed by the dentist to use at home (called “in-home bleaching”).

Chairside bleaching takes from 30 minutes to one hour per visit. It is not uncommon for the teeth to become slightly sensitive following bleaching treatments. To protect the mouth, a gel-like substance is applied to the gums and a rubber “shield” is placed around the necks of the teeth. A chemical solution, the oxidizing agent, is painted onto the teeth. A special light may be used to activate the agent.


To achieve the best results, teeth may be bleached a shade lighter than the desired since they will tend to darken slightly with time. Generally two to ten visits may be necessary to complete the process of chairside bleaching.

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In-home Bleaching

With in-home bleaching, the dentist makes an impression for a model of the teeth, fabricates a custom-fitted tray and prescribes a bleaching agent that comes in the form of a bleaching gel. The gel is placed in the custom-fitted tray and worn up to two hours daily or at night for about two weeks. The amount of time the custom-fitted tray is worn and the duration may vary according to a person’s individual need and the recommendations of the dentist. The dentist will monitor the entire process of in-home bleaching to assure its effectiveness and safety.

Over the counter products that are self-administered are not recommended, although they may appear to cost less. Bleaching treatment should be done under the supervision of a dentist following a proper exam and diagnosis. Whiteners with the ADA Seal of Acceptance have proven to be safe and effective.

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Who Can Benefit?

Most bleaching procedures last one to three years, although in some situations it may last longer.

Some people, with certain dental conditions, may not be good candidates for this type of bleaching. People with gum recession, for example, may have exposed root surfaces that are highly sensitive and could be further irritated by the ingredients in the whiteners or bleaching components. In addition, these products are not recommended for habitual tobacco and alcohol users.

Brushing and flossing, twice a day, as well as regular professional cleanings, along with occasional touch-up treatments will help keep teeth white. An attractive smile increases self-confidence.

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How Long Whitening Lasts?

Whitening usually lasts between one and three years. However, it is important to:

- Brush twice a day

- Floss once a day

- Have regular cleanings at your dentist’s office

- Ask your dentist about any concerns you may have

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