November 1, 2018 Ann Le A beautiful, bright smile gives a person an added sense of confidence when they are meeting or interacting with other people. According to most cosmetic dentists, teeth whitening is the most sought-after procedure by individuals before big events such as weddings, job or media interviews, dates, graduations, and reunions. Time & Budget – Do You Need to Whiten in a Hurry? Teeth whitening doesn’t always have to be expensive (a common reason why many people shy away from inquiring about the procedure). There are many ways to get whiter teeth – ranging from low-cost over-the-counter treatment options to high-end whitening services offered by dentists. In terms of budget and time taken to achieve final results, the more costly the whitening solution, the more effective and faster it is to attain your desired look. For example, in-office whitening by a dentist costs around $650 and delivers significant color change in hours while over-the-counter products cost around $20 to $100 but take several days or weeks to produce the desired results. Good Dental Habits – Don’t Make the Situation Worse For the best results with any teeth whitening procedure you need to maintain some good dental habits. Start by going to your dentist for a regular check-up and teeth cleaning. They can scale and polish your teeth before advising you on whether you are a suitable candidate for teeth whitening. Go on practicing good oral hygiene by brushing, flossing, and avoiding sugary foods. Food and drinks such as coffee and tea that are likely to stain your teeth will affect the whitening results; so you need to figure out how to reduce their intake or avoid them. Also, keep away from habits such as smoking when you begin the procedure. Teeth Whitening Options for a Big Event As mentioned earlier, there are various teeth whitening options you can consider before your big event. Depending on the time taken to achieve the desired results, it’s important to give yourself enough time to complete and recover from the treatment. It’s also good to understand how long it will take for the treatment’s effects to wear off so that your teeth are not treated too early, and the effects subside before the big event. However, this is not a significant concern as the effects are often long-lasting. The 4 main tooth whitening options include: In-Office Bleaching at the Dentist Office Professional in-office teeth bleaching is the most expensive but popular cosmetic dental procedure around the globe. It is preferred over the other methods because its results are instant, faster to attain, and long-lasting. During the procedure, a dentist uses relatively high concentrations of a peroxide gel to whiten your teeth under controlled conditions. The treatment only takes an hour at most, with the peroxide gel remaining on your teeth for intervals of 15 to 20 minutes. People with stubborn stains may be advised to come back for extra bleaching sessions or be requested to continue with home treatment options. In-office whitening effects can last up to 3 years. At-Home Bleaching Gels Another common treatment procedure is the use of at-home bleaching gels that are either obtained over the counter or provided by a dentist. Both kits involve using whitening trays that are filled with a bleaching gel and worn for 1 to 2 hours a day. Kits from a dentist deliver results in 1 to 2 weeks while over-the-counter kits need to be worn for 1 to 4 weeks – depending on the product. Kits provided by a dentist are customizable and contain a bleaching gel with higher concentrations than that in OTC kits, hence producing more effective results. Effects of at-home bleaching gels, like all the treatment options listed, are heavily dependent on oral care and diet. Results typically last 6-12 months. At-Home Whitening Strips Whitening strips are another DIY method of teeth whitening and are sold over the counter at fairly inexpensive prices ($10-$60). They contain low amounts of hydrogen peroxide just like with other OTC treatment options, and good results can be seen in 1 to 2 weeks. They are a good option because their bleaching agent penetrates your teeth’s pores instead of just acting on their surface. You can expect teeth to keep their improved shade of white for around 12 months. Brushing with Whitening Toothpaste Using whitening toothpaste is the cheapest way to go, but it takes a long time for results to start showing (around 3 to 4 weeks). If your big event is near, this is not the best option to consider. Toothpaste whiteners are also less effective than over-the-counter products because they contain lower bleaching concentrations and only come into contact with the teeth for a short period. How long their effects last depends on your diet and dental hygiene. Reasons to Give Yourself Plenty of Time It is vital to give your teeth plenty of time for the whitening treatment to show results before your big event. For example, just because whitening strips can show results in 1 to 2 weeks doesn’t mean you should start using them precisely two weeks before your wedding. Use them well in advance (a month or two) so that you can tell whether you like the results in time. It’s also important to remember not all people are good candidates for teeth whitening – if you have cavities, gum recession or are undergoing some orthodontic treatment such as braces then you need to factor these additional treatments into the teeth whitening plan. Teeth Respond Differently Many factors can influence the effectiveness of whitening strips, gels, and toothpaste. Such factors include the level of your teeth’s stains, how well the strips or whitening trays fit (if bought over the counter), and how well the teeth are cared for. Giving yourself adequate time provides you with the chance to see what works and what doesn’t so that you can remedy it in time. Possible Side Effects Possible side effects of teeth whitening are mild and temporary, generally disappearing a few hours or days after treatment. They include tooth and gum sensitivity, gum irritation, and perhaps a sore throat. It is, therefore, recommended that you have your treatment early enough so that such effects can subside before your big event arrives. If you’re the bride or groom, you’ll want to enjoy that cake on your big day. Ann LeAnn Le has been successfully managing dental practices since 1990. She is currently Practice Manager at Bunker Hill Dentistry in Houston, TX which she runs with her husband Dr. Tri M Le.