Are you happy with your smile, or are you embarrassed because of your yellow teeth? Don’t fret. You can visit a dentist to get your teeth whitened. Teeth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dentistry treatments that offer a quick, non-invasive method of enhancing your smile. Anyone can opt for teeth whitening solutions, which range from one-hour whitening sessions at a dental office or cosmetic spa or using bleaching kits at home. In this post, we break down the teeth whitening process and tell you how much it costs.
Why Causes Teeth Staining?
We all start with perfectly sparkling teeth, thanks to the porcelain-like enamel surface. Tooth enamel is composed of microscopic crystalline rods designed to protect the teeth from the effects of gnashing, chewing, trauma, and acid attacks caused by sugar.
However, over the years, the enamel gets worn down, becoming more transparent to the point it permits the yellow color of dentin (the tooth’s core material) to show. Even after exposure, the dentin remains intact while millions of micro-cracks occur in the enamel.
It’s these cracks that gradually fill up with stains and debris, resulting in our teeth eventually losing the whiteness and sparkle, instead developing a dull, lackluster appearance. Some lifestyle habits that contribute to teeth staining include:
Eating habits, such as excessive consumption of coffee, tea, and wine.
Grinding, which wears the enamel of your teeth to expose dentin.
Drugs and medication
Teeth whitening removes this debris and stains, leaving the enamel cracks open and exposed. Saliva usually re-mineralizes these cracks, but others fill up again with debris.
Is Teeth Whitening Safe?
You can choose the over-the-counter options for teeth whitening or talk to a dentist for professional teeth whitening treatment. Either way, it’s a safe procedure with minimal side effects.
However, teeth whitening can cause temporary tooth sensitivity afterward. You should first consult a dentist before undertaking the process. People with extremely sensitive teeth and those with severe recession or decay should not try whitening.
According to Dr. Marc Lowenberg of Lowenberg, Lituchy & Kantor in New York City, such people should use Sensodyne for at least six weeks before getting their teeth whitened.
You should also know that teeth whitening works best on natural teeth, although it doesn’t work on crowns or false teeth.
How Does Teeth Whitening Work?
During the teeth whitening process, a safe bleach called carbamide peroxide is used to remove stains from the enamel. Carbamide peroxide is a derivative of hydrogen peroxide and is about a third the strength of hydrogen peroxide.
The bleach is applied to your teeth for a certain amount of time and is treated with a high-intensity light that goes deep into the enamel. The bleach then penetrates through the enamel into the inner dentin layer of your teeth, breaking apart the dark molecules of stain deep inside the teeth. By the end of it all, your teeth are left with a whiter appearance.
The high-intensity light activates the bleach, accelerating its penetration through the enamel, effectively whitening the teeth in around one hour.
First, the dentist must inspect your teeth and ask about your dental history. This helps them determine the best approach. For instance, if you have sensitive teeth, the dentist may administer Advil to help manage the posttreatment pain.
How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost?
There are three major teeth whitening options, each costing differently.
In-Office Teeth Whitening
In-office whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures today. It's done under carefully monitored conditions to allow for safe, controlled, and pain-free use of a relatively high concentration peroxide gel – yielding results that are visible immediately.
Generally, the peroxide is left on the teeth for several 15–20-minute intervals that add up to an hour (to at most,). If your teeth contain particularly stubborn stains, you may be asked to return for additional sessions or advised to continue with a home-use system.
Typically, the average cost of in-office teeth whitening starts from $650 per visit. It can go as high as $1,500 or even more, depending on what will be included in the procedure. For example, some dentists may recommend you take custom-made whitening trays to use at home after the procedure to help maintain the white appearance.
Professionally Dispensed Take-Home Kits
Take-home teeth whitening kits offer a minimally invasive way to whiten teeth. Some dentists recommend this method suggesting that it produces the best results over the long haul.
A take-home whitening kit includes a gel that is easy to use. The gel usually contains a lower concentration of peroxide that remains on the teeth for an hour or longer, sometimes overnight. The gel is applied to the teeth using custom-made bleaching trays which look like mouth guards.
The average cost of take-home teeth whitening kits ranges from $100 to $500.
Over-the-Counter Whitening Products
If you’re looking for cheap ways to whiten teeth, you can try over-the-counter bleaching. These are products you can buy from the drug store that contains a concentration of peroxide lower than that of the professionally dispensed take-home whiteners.
The gel is applied via one-size-fits-all trays, paint-on applicators, or strips. The disadvantage of this method is that it may only whiten a few teeth of the front, unlike the other methods that whiten the entire teeth.
The average cost of over-the-counter products starts from as low as $20 to $100.
How Long Does Teeth Whitening Last?
The effects of teeth whitening vary from one person to another. For some people, it can last up to three years, while for others, it may last for months. The duration of the results is usually affected by your food and lifestyle choices.
To ensure your teeth stay white for longer, you may want to watch your eating habits. For instance, you need to avoid taking dark-colored foods and beverages frequently since they will cause the stain to accumulate faster. It's advisable to use a straw when sipping dark-colored beverages.
You’ll also want to maintain excellent oral hygiene, making sure you brush twice a day and floss after meals.