It seems everybody wants their teeth whitened these days, which is a testament to the enduring popularity of this cosmetic dentistry procedure.

What is it?

Whitening refers to a set of techniques that can safely, and sometimes dramatically, transform your smile. It’s a fact of life that as we get older, certain minerals infiltrate the enamel of our teeth and stain them. (Other factors also affect the lightness or darkness of your natural tooth color, but this is generally speaking.) Regularly drinking coffee, wine or tea—or having unhealthy habits such as smoking or chewing tobacco—are some of the most common causes of stained teeth in our society. Many different treatments exist for whitening teeth, but Dr. Ertl prefers two particular ones. Both apply a bleaching gel directly to your teeth. This gel has an ingredient which forces oxygen in to the enamel and dentin layers of your teeth. The oxygen is important because it’s the agent that helps break down the stains, making them lighter and whiter, without compromising your tooth’s natural structure.

What factors affect the color of your teeth?
Age is the most common factor, since we accumulate stains from foods and drink over time.
Tobacco Use: All tobacco products, even the so-called smokeless products, stain teeth. If tobacco use is a longterm habit, the repeated exposure will always result in staining. However, whitening can nearly eliminate most stains that result from tobacco. (Although, if tobacco use continues after the whitening is performed, you can expect those stains to come right back.) 
Food and Beverages: Some beverages, like sodas, red wine, tea and coffee stain teeth—especially after long-term repeated exposure. Luckily, these stains can be minimized or even eliminated with whitening… though continued exposure after the procedure is performed can pretty guarantee they will eventually return. 
Medications: In some cases, medication can result in stains or tooth darkening. These stains can be some of the most stubborn and difficult to remove. Flourosis, a condition caused by too much fluoride, can cause discoloration, as can tetracycline and some antibiotics used during childhood years. Dr. Ertl can explain how professional whitening can help in these situations.

How long does it take?
This depends on the method used as well as the type of stains being removed. With take-home whitening procedures, you can usually see visible results in three to four days, with the treatment duration lasting up to two weeks. But keep in mind that the degree of staining, and the level of desired whiteness, are factors that affect the total time.

Is whitening for me?

Whitening produces results in more than 90 percent of patients, and it doesn’t harm teeth. Different factors will affect the process, and some people are better candidates than others. In general, yellow and light brown teeth, stained over a period of years make excellent candidates, while darker brown or grayish stains require special techniques. Whitening will not lighten artificial material in your mouth like bonding, fillings and veneers. Those with sensitive teeth, damaged teeth, gum disease, and pregnant women are encouraged to discuss their conditions with Dr. Ertl.

What are my whitening options?
Dr. Ertl offers take-home whitening kits, which are an affordable and effective way for many people to achieve excellent whitening results. After preparing your teeth for whitening, the dentist takes impressions of your teeth and fabricates plastic trays molded specifically to fit your mouth. At home, you fill the trays with the whitening gel and fit them over your teeth. The trays hold the gel in contact with the teeth and are worn for a specified period of time. Some treatments are specifically designed to be worn overnight while you sleep. The trays are typically worn daily for ten to fourteen days (or nights), or until the desired whiteness is achieved.

Why is whitening from my dentist better than using an over-the-counter product?

Simply put, the treatments offered by Dr. Ertl are more effective and loner lasting than the over-the-counter products you can find in drug stores. Plus, the trays Dr. Ertl will make for you are custom-fitted to your mouth, which ensures the bleaching agent will not leak on your gums and cause irritation — the same is not true of OTC bleaching products.

What preparation does Dr. Ertl do before whitening the teeth?

Dr. Ertl will first examine your teeth to assess whether you are a good candidate for whitening. We recommend having a professional dental cleaning before proceeding with whitening, to make sure that the bleaching agent can easily contact the clean, prepared surfaces of your teeth. The cleaning and exam will also give Dr. Ertl a chance to repair any damaged or sensitive teeth and address any cavity or gum problems before proceeding with the whitening procedure.

What results can I expect?

Whitening produces results in over 90 percent of patients, and it doesn’t harm teeth. Typical results will produce a change several shades lighter than your natural tooth color. This change can be expected to last three to five years. Different factors affect how long the process takes, what method is used and how long the whitening lasts.

Is whitening safe?
Yes. The American Dental Association has approved whitening products, and clinical trials and studies have determined they are safe and effective. Most people suffer no side effects from whitening procedures, but some people do experience sensitivity to hot and cold foods after treatment. This side effect typically lasts for less than 48 hours, and then goes away.

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