Family & Cosmetic Dentistry

Cynthia A. Mumma, DDS
Family & Cosmetic Dentistry

1304 North Broom Street
Wilmington, DE 19806

Phone: (302) 652-2451
Fax: (302) 652-2550

Whitening

Facial expressions are a large part of body language, and, like it or not, people judge you by your smile. An attractive smile can take you a long way. So what happens when your pearly whites aren’t so pearly and white anymore? After years of eating, smoking, drinking coffee, wine or teas, teeth can lose their brilliance.

Dr. Mumma has two options available for whitening, also known as bleaching. Of all the advances made in dentistry to enhance the appearance of the teeth, whitening is the easiest and least invasive. The procedure is safe, easy to use, and more affordable than ever before. Because of these reasons and more, whitening has become very popular.

How does the process work?

The bleaching gel is usually hydrogen or carbamide peroxide that breaks down into oxygen molecules. These molecules go into the tiny pores of the enamel and dentin, and break up the stains that block out the light. As the stains are broken into smaller and smaller pieces, more light passes through the teeth and makes them look lighter. Stains that are accumulated over time that are yellow to slightly brown produce the best results. Teeth that are dark brown to blue-gray are the most difficult to bleach because the stain is deeply embedded into the tooth’s structure. These types of stains are usually caused by medications taken during the development of the teeth such as tetracycline.

Depending on the bleaching gel used and the length of time it is worn, results can be seen within an hour, overnight or within three to four days. Complete results can be achieved in as little as a week or as much as several months depending on the source of the stain and the ability of the teeth or tooth to be bleached. The whitening procedure may last for up to three years — even longer in some cases, depending on personal habits. To brighten the color back up, a simple process of bleaching for one or two nights with a single syringe is usually sufficient.

What will happen at the initial consultation?

At the first visit with Dr. Mumma, you’ll be able to talk with her about the changes you’d like to make in your appearance. She will explain the different options available to you, the procedure itself, and its risks and limitations.

Dr. Mumma will begin with a complete medical history and examine your teeth. She may also take photos and/or x-rays and give you specific instructions on how to prepare for the procedure. Any large cavities may need to be addressed before bleaching can begin. Take this opportunity to ask all the questions you have about the procedure. Learning everything you can about your options, risks and benefits is the key to making an informed decision.

How are the treatments performed?

There are three types of bleaching procedures to choose from. Two of them are performed in the dentist’s office, and the third is a take-home, self-administered treatment.

In-office whitening procedures:

For laser and power bleaching, Dr. Mumma begins by applying a protective material to your gums and lips in order to isolate the teeth. A special bleaching solution – usually containing hydrogen peroxide – is applied to the teeth. A high intensity light or laser is directed at the teeth and activates the bleaching agent, causing the gel to release the oxygen molecules. Treatments can take somewhere between one and two hours.

These techniques work great for a single discolored tooth as well. If the tooth has become dark due to trauma but has not had a root canal, the bleaching solution is placed on the outside of the tooth. If the tooth has had a root canal, the solution can be placed on the outside as well as the inside of the tooth. Leaving a bleaching solution inside the tooth and sealing the opening is referred to as “walking bleach”. The solution inside the tooth for a walking bleach is changed about once a week. Results can take several weeks but nothing has to be worn in the mouth.

Take-home whitening:

Home bleaching is performed at home, under the indirect supervision of Dr. Mumma. At the first appointment, she takes impressions of the patient’s teeth and then creates a perfectly fitted mouthpiece. This mouthpiece will allow the patient to apply a bleaching solution to the teeth while protecting the rest of the mouth from contact with the bleaching chemicals.

The concentration of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide in the gel is not as strong as that used in power or laser bleaching procedures. No strong light source or laser is needed to activate the bleaching agent. Instead, it is contact with something organic, in this case the teeth, that causes the gel to release oxygen. In most cases, home bleaching can take from one to three weeks to achieve maximum results. During this time, she may want to check the progress of the treatment.

Whitening Before and After