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Blinded by the White?

Washington DC-By J. S. Ronnette-Patients traveling the road toward whiter teeth have a dizzying array of options to choose from. There are so many whitening products and treatments out there that some dental consumers get blinded in the glare of choices. From paint-on bleaching gels to stick-on whitening strips to in-office power bleaching-what's a white-smile-seeker to do?

The current methods break down into whitening at home and at the dental office, with a growing interest in whitening at the dentist's office. "Many of our patients are busy professionals, and they would rather come in for a one-visit power bleaching session to get the job done right away," says Dr. Daniel J. Deutsch, of the Washington Center for Dentistry. And many patients are not new to the world of whitening, having already tried over-the-counter techniques.

Home teeth whitening

· The brush-on method sounds wonderfully easy and unobtrusive. Just brush on the bleaching gel before you go to sleep. Let it sit on your teeth all night long and brush it off with your toothbrush the next morning.

Also considered the Lazy-Man's whitening system, this method contains inherent flaws. The most obvious drawback is that once saliva "wets" the gel on the teeth, the bleach gets diluted and rubs off in some areas. This situation lowers the chance for an even whitening result. And no one wants that blotchy, partially bleached look!

And many of these at-home formulas contain glycerin, which is known to deplete moisture in the enamel of the teeth. This condition often leads to discomfort from sensitivity during the whitening process.

· The stick-on strips method is popular because they are simple to use. They are easy to apply and need no preparation.

But, again, the short-cut approach gives skimpy results. Here's why: The upper and lower strips get pressed against the outer front surface of the teeth. And while they adhere pretty well, the strips cannot fit completely within the cracks and grooves that occur along the contour of your teeth. The recesses between each tooth might possibly retain their darker staining, and even might look darker against the newly bleached flatter areas. Eventually, as the whitening process progresses, teeth might appear to have undesirable, pronounced gaps between them.

In addition, these methods often use bleach at a lower concentration (6 to 10 percent), which is less effective than bleach supplied by many dental offices.

· The trays and bleaching gel method remains the most successful and efficient home whitening treatment.

A special form-fitting, soft plastic tray is made from a mold of your mouth. The tray fits snugly over each tooth. The dentist also supplies a higher concentration (16 to 22 percent) bleaching gel.

Patients wear the trays and gel for a certain period of time every day for a specific number of days-as prescribed by the dentist.

This method gets good results for patients amenable to wearing trays and gel either a few hours in the evening - or while they sleep.

In-office Whitening - Britesmile
· The one-hour power bleaching method is fast becoming the option of choice for patients seeking great results - fast!

This in-office treatment-known as Britesmile-gets high marks for quick, comfortable, easy whitening at lightning speeds.

"The Britesmile chair is often the first stop for patients getting a full smile makeover," says Dr. Marc Doctors, also of the Washington Center for Dentistry. "They want to match their new crowns and veneers to teeth that are as white as they can get."

The Britesmile system lightens teeth up to nine shades whiter, on average, with no harm to tooth enamel, gums or existing fillings. Teeth reach their optimum natural whiteness and reveal a smile that many patients haven't seen in years.

The one-visit session goes like this: After examining teeth and gums, pre-whitening toothpaste is applied with a hygienist's polisher to prepare teeth for the whitening session.

The current shade of the teeth is measured. A before photo is taken. Then, the technician protects the gums and mouth with special materials and applies the whitening gel.

Many patients relax with movies or music while a gentle blue light shines on their teeth to activate the whitening gel. The technician reapplies the gel every 20 minutes-three times during the one-hour session.

When the sessions are complete, the new shade is noted and an "after" photo records the new brighter smile for posterity.

How long does it last? Long-term results depend on the patient. Tobacco, coffee, tea, dark soft drinks and lax attention to dental care can work against the results. Regular professional care will help maintain a new "Britesmile" up to two years. Some patients maintain results at home with trays and gel.

For more information on Britesmile whitening and other cosmetic dentistry procedures in the Washington DC area, please click here.


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