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Why Is Tooth Whitening So Popular?

Aug 17, 2007
Everywhere we look now we see people with bright, luminescent smiles and teeth. Rarely do we see anyone with yellow, discolored teeth on TV anymore. Some of the actors have smiles so white and bright that it looks fake and you know they had their teeth whitened.

The popular sitcom Friends even did a spoof on teeth whitening where one of the characters teeth were so white after treatment that they glowed in the dark like they were irradiated. So, what actually is tooth or dental whitening, how much does it cost, why is it so popular, and what kind of results can one expect?

Basically, tooth or dental whitening is a controlled oxygen bleaching of the tooth enamel. As any good dentist will tell you it works better on some than others and not everyone is a good candidate (kind of like with laser eye surgery). It will not work on any fake teeth like porcelain veneers, ceramic implants, etc. It only works on real teeth. The main ingredient is either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide which are both oxidizers and will bleach tooth enamel.

Over the counter kits and products generally have a low percentage of the main oxidizing ingredient (usually in the range of 2 to 6%). This is minimally effective at best. Dentists, plastic and oral surgeons will use a 30 to 35% solution and will add to this a high power blue or white plasma or laser light to hyper increase the oxidizing activity of the treatment.

The difference is that the over the counter kits and products may, after many treatments, whiten your teeth 1 to 2 shades whereas the in office treatments like Zoom (one of the most popular name brands for professional teeth whitening today) will in a hour or so whiten the teeth 8 to 14 shades. This is an enormous difference, but also there is a big price that comes with this in office whitening (usually $400 to $500 and most insurance companies do not cover this treatment).

Also, another thing to watch out for is many dentists are using the whitening to lure customers into unnecessary and expensive treatments above and beyond the whitening. Many people are finding that when they make the appointment for the whitening that the dentist tells them they need their remaining wisdom teeth removed, cavities treated even when there are none, and numerous other non routine requirements like deep cleaning requiring anesthesia for someone whom has no cavities or gum disease.

Numerous people have found that each dentist they see in some areas like Chicago, IL and Charlotte, NC gives them a different story and different requirements.
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