Until a few years ago, professional teeth whitening at the dental office was done by applying a bleaching agent to the teeth. Usually the active ingredient in the bleaching agent is hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which lightens the colour of the enamel. The course of treatment may take up to four weeks and sometimes the treatment has to be completed at home.
Recent advances in dentistry now make it possible to expedite the colour change by leveraging the capability of laser technology through a process referred to as 'power whitening'. This process reduces the number of sessions required for whitening. Power whitening can also be used selectively to whiten one tooth at a time, depending on the type of laser used. It is the obvious choice for lightening a tooth that is more discoloured than other teeth within the environment.
Screening for laser whitening
The dentist must first determine if laser whitening is suitable for a patient. Persons whose tooth roots have become significantly exposed due to receding gums are usually advised to undergo alternative whitening methods. This is because roots are resistant to bleaching and it may cause the teeth to bleach unevenly when the process is completed. Laser whitening is also not suitable for pregnant women.
Protecting sensitive tissues in the mouth
The whitening process is preceded by filling all teeth cavities to prevent the whitening solution from penetrating cavities and causing teeth sensitivity. Before commencing the procedure, a gel is also applied over the gums. The gel hardens into a rubber layer and serves as protection from the whitening solution.
The whitening process
The process takes about an hour. The dentist inserts a rubber or plastic mouth guard to keep the mouth open. The whitening compound is then applied to the front of the teeth and a beam of laser is directed at the coated teeth.
The laser activates the whitening compound, causing it to foam as it rapidly removes the teeth stains. After a couple of minutes, the whitening compound is removed from the teeth by a small piece of suction equipment. This process is repeated few times until the desired colour shade is obtained. The mouth is then rinsed out and the protective layer over the gums removed.
Post laser whitening
Sensitivity is usually mild if it occurs at all, but it invariably wears off within a few days. Prescribed mediation can bring about relief or reduce the sensitivity if it persists. Power whitening is said to lighten the shade of teeth up to five or six times at the end of the process and the effects can last up to three years provided the patient does not smoke, eat or drink products that will stain the teeth. Generally, teeth whitening can be repeated as often as necessary to maintain the teeth's colour, though your dentist will make this decision based on your oral health.Share
28 July 2017
I have worked as a school nurse for decades. Children come to me with all sorts of scrapes and bumps and bruises. Black eyes from playing football, sprained wrists from falling off the monkey bars and stomachaches from too many sweets are common complaints. However, the issue that seems to cause the greatest angst is tooth problems. Sometimes a child will have a second tooth knocked out when playing sport and parents arrive in tears. At other times, children come to my office crying because their friends are teasing them about teeth that are discoloured or stick out. I take an active interest in the latest dental news so that I can give parents and children comfort and advice. I have included some of my collected wisdom on these pages. Perhaps this information can help you understand some options when faced with a dental problem. Thank you for reading.