It seems these days everything is designed to make our lives simpler. Drive-throughs, ATMs and computers are just a few of the conveniences we've all gotten used to. Now, no one even bats an eye when they hear you can get your teeth whitened in just one hour.
Although laser teeth whitening has become a standard practice among dental offices, you can't just walk in and expect to have a sparkling smile immediately. Like other dental procedures, teeth whitening requires a little preparation.
Are You Ready?
In order for laser whitening to be successful, your dentist first needs to evaluate you. The best candidates for laser teeth whitening are those who are in good dental health. The chemicals used during the procedure can aggravate cavities and harm roots exposed from gum disease. If you have any dental problems, have them treated prior to any cosmetic dental procedures to avoid complications.
Even if you're in good health, the type of tooth discoloration you have can determine whether or not tooth whitening will help. If your dentist discovers your tooth stains are intrinsic, or developed beneath your tooth enamel, teeth whitening may not work for you. Teeth whitening is more effective on extrinsic stains, or discoloration formed on the surface of the tooth. Extrinsic stains are often caused by smoking, eating and drinking. Teeth whitening will also not work on veneers, a dental cap or dental crown. Getting a dental exam prior to laser teeth whitening will not only help identify pre-existing dental problems, but can also save you from spending money on an unnecessary procedure.
After your dentist determines you're a good candidate for teeth whitening, you'll have some homework to do prior to your appointment. Having a dental cleaning will remove dental tartar and other sediments that you can't remove on your own. At-home dental care is also extremely important to a successful procedure. Brushing and flossing correctly is necessary to prevent dental problems that might delay your teeth whitening procedure.
Some patients experience sensitivity following tooth whitening. If you're prone to sensitivity, start brushing with a desensitizing toothpaste a couple of weeks prior to the procedure. Desensitizing toothpastes work by blocking the pores that act as a pathway to our nerves -- as the heat and chemicals used during dental treatment penetrate these pores, you may feel sensitivity. Regular use of desensitizing toothpaste can limit the possibility of discomfort during and after treatment. If you're extremely prone to sensitivity, you may consider taking a painkiller before the appointment. Of course, any medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, should be not taken without your doctor's permission.
Make sure you set aside enough time for the procedure when scheduling the appointment. One-hour laser whitening doesn't include waiting, prep or recovery time. Your dentist or dental hygienist usually needs an extra 30 minutes for preparation, during which they place a protective barrier on your gums and whitening gel on your teeth. The laser is then placed over your teeth in several increments. The amount of time you spend in the dental chair depends on your tooth whitening needs; your dental office can help you estimate the length of your appointment.
At-home teeth whitening and over-the-counter kits require prep work similar to laser whitening. This includes getting a dental checkup, treating any dental problems and practicing excellent oral hygiene before embarking on your tooth-whitening journey. Speak with your dentist before trying any dental products to make sure that they will work for you. If your dentist is preparing your at-home kit, he or she will need to make molds of your teeth and supply the appropriate materials. Follow-up appointments may be required in order to check your progress.
The Ultimate Test
Follow-up appointments are just as important as tooth whitening preparation. Bad oral hygiene habits not only make it harder to whiten teeth, but can ruin the effects of the procedure. Although sensitivity is common, contact your dentist if you have major problems, including prolonged discomfort or extreme pain. Regardless, a little prep work will help you get the most out of your teeth whitening procedure, with longer-lasting effects. After all, a little bit of preparation goes a long way!
If you don't have a dentist, we can help you find one.