People ask me all the time whether they should have laser bleaching to whiten their smile. “It all depends on whether you are in a hurry to get your teeth whitened, and whether or not you are a candidate for tooth whitening in the first place” – my typical response! The benefits of laser bleaching over an over-the-counter home solution include instant results, a painless experience and a completely guided procedure. If your teeth can benefit from teeth whitening, at-home tray bleaching techniques will work for most people unless their teeth are sensitive, eroding, severely worn or if they have gum recession . If you do have severely discolored teeth, a combination of laser bleaching and home bleaching and whitening toothpaste would be the best approach to obtaining and maintaining a bright and dazzling smile.
Laser bleaching utilizes laser light energy to accelerate the chemical reaction of a bleaching agent, typically a hydrogen peroxide base product. Hydrogen peroxide is very unstable in response to light and heat (which is why over-the-counter 3% hydrogen peroxide solution is stored in opaque dark brown bottles). Because of this, light energy can excite peroxide molecules, breaking the covalent bonds of the bleaching agent. The agent then reacts to and breaks the long, discolored molecule chains into shorter-chained molecules, lightening the tooth color. The bleaching agent used with laser bleaching is a high-strength solution when compared to home bleaching agents or over-the-counter kits. Your mouth will be protected with an isolator to protect the oral tissues , and placement of the bleaching agent is done in a very controlled manner by a highly trained dental professional. Once a 10-to-15 minute bleaching cycle is complete, the teeth will be cleaned and evaluated to discern whether additional applications of bleaching agent will follow. Normal bleaching procedures involve three applications of the bleaching gel, with an “instant average” of six shades of whiteness typically resulting. Laser bleaching is instantly gratifying. In my office, you can watch a movie through virtual i-glasses while the procedure takes place, and before your movie is finished your teeth will have been transformed into a younger, prettier and whiter smile!
Many different types of lasers (or light) are used for eliciting fast chemical reactions in teeth whitening. Some people will experience more sensitivity when infrared energy (heat) is utilized, which appears in most dental offices, but a few alternatives like Argon or KTP lasers (which emit blue and green light) exist. These lasers have the correct level of energy required to excite the bleaching gel, but they leave the teeth cool and comfortable. Most sensitivity is transient, and should subside within a day (Ibuprofen will be helpful if there is any available). After a smile has been bleached with a laser, one must be very careful to maintain his or her newly brightened smile lest the brilliant white color fade and dull over time. Alcohol, soft drinks and smoking are all bad habits which can stain teeth and regress any laser bleaching process. A healthy diet will also be beneficial for your physical and oral health. If you take care of your mouth, your reward will be apparent with a happy and healthy smile.