Tooth Whitening: An Overview of Bleaching Techniques

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Guest: Dr. J. Mark Barry - DDS, MBA

Host: Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatrist

Dr. Linda Austin: I am Dr. Linda Austin. I am talking today with Dr. Mark Barry, a Dentist and Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs in the College of Dental Medicine at MUSC. Dr. Barry, one of the things we are seeing ads for all over the place is teeth whitening preparations, are these safe and are they effective?

Dr. J. Mark Barry: Bleaching or tooth whitening as we call it has really become very popular all over the country and largely because of advertisements as you said. Yes, they are relatively safe. It’s a very conservative way for a patient to get whiter teeth, but there are some things you need to know about bleaching.

Dr. Linda Austin: Such as

Dr. J. Mark Barry: The industry has really promoted and advertised for over-the-counter tooth whitening and bleaching products and what I tell my patients is ?- and this has actually been very good thing because what -- it’s done as it’s exposed the patient population that these treatments are available. So, the exposure through the advertisement has been for dentistry because it allows people to understand that there are options out there to get your teeth whiter or whiter I guess I should say. The over-the-counter products, they are relatively safe and if you follow them by the instructions, then you should be okay. What I will typically tell patients is that if they want to bleach their teeth, then the in-office or professional way to go about bleaching your teeth is probably the preferred and that has to be done in a dental office. Some patients simply want to try the over the counter or they may be not want to spend the kind of money that the in-office bleaching costs and so in that case, I will tell the patient we will go ahead and try the strips or whatever is out there that entices you and just see how it works.

Dr. Linda Austin: What is the advantage of doing that in-office?

Dr. J. Mark Barry: There are a couple of different of ways to do it in the office; one is to make trays and these trays fit your teeth specifically and then you are given or dispensed a prescription-strength bleaching product or gel or paste and then the regimen or the instructions are gone over with you and you take these trays and you bleach at home, that’s the home bleaching technique done through in-office and that’s what we do in our office, and there are different regimens; the one that we use is bleach with these trays once a day anywhere from 10 to 14 days and by and large, people get pretty good results. It’s not a tremendously great, you know, you are not going to have white teeth like a white dress or a white wall, but there is going to be a subtle difference in change and shade that somebody may not even notice. They may think you got your haircut differently, but there is something better or nicer about your look because you have whiter teeth. The other technique, it’s done in the office, the bleach is placed on the teeth and then an intense light is placed on the teeth and that typically is done anywhere from half an hour to an hour and then the patient will come out of the office with their teeth whitened in that appointment. So, that’s another way that it can be done.

Dr. Linda Austin: Is that more or less effective than the trays?

Dr. J. Mark Barry: They are really about the same, but the studies in the literature show that they are really about the same; one is not more advantageous over the other.

Dr. Linda Austin: How long do the results last?

Dr. J. Mark Barry: Typically to relatively irreversible affect, but most patients usually want to do what we call a booster after about two, may be three years and what that means is they will keep the trays that were dispensed to them by the dentist and they will do the bleaching technique for a day or two or may be three days, which would be conservative boost. They don’t go through the whole regimen again, but may be a day, or two, or three days.

Dr. Linda Austin: If a person has crowns in their front teeth or fillings in their front teeth, can they still have their teeth bleached?

Dr. J. Mark Barry: They can have their teeth bleached, but they have to completely understand that the bleach will have no effect on the color of the crown or the color of the restoration -- tooth-colored restoration, which are typically in front teeth and so if a patient is very serious about whitening their teeth and changing their look, then they have to understand that more than likely they will have to have those fillings replaced and perhaps even that crown replaced once the teeth are bleached and the patient is satisfied with the new shade of their teeth that they may have to have that other work done afterwards.

Dr. Linda Austin: Dr. Barry, thank you so much for talking with us today.

Dr. J. Mark Barry: Thank you very much.

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