It’s the season to smile. And if your teeth aren’t quite as white as they could be, add a dental appointment to your holiday to-do list now.
A professional cleaning may be all you need to get your smile in shape. Or, for a smile that really sparkles, schedule a whitening treatment. While you may be able to brighten your teeth using over-the-counter products, a professional whitening treatment typically provides enhanced results.
Talk to your dentist to see which type of treatment is best for you. No matter which option you choose, it’s best to schedule your appointment two or three weeks before the holidays – and believe it or not, that’s right now – as your teeth will likely be sensitive for a week or so following the treatment.
Here are your teeth whitening options:
- In Office: Your dentist will protect your gums with a desensitizing gel or shield before applying a peroxide gel to your teeth. The solution is then activated by exposure to a high-intensity light. Expect to spend a half-hour to an hour in the dentist’s chair. You may need more than one appointment. Average cost is $450-600.
- At Home: Your dentist will custom-fit a set of “whitening trays,” (flexible molds which you’ll place over your teeth) or will provide you with a kit that contains the trays and a peroxide gel. The whitening product used is weaker than the one utilized in the dentist’s office, but more powerful than an over-the-counter product. Typically, you’ll wear the trays for 4-8 hours daily over the course of ten days. Average cost is $400-$500.
- Over-The Counter treatments, such as bleaching strips or whitening kits, can be an effective budget choice if your teeth are already white and healthy. Cost is under $100.
Shortly after whitening, your tooth enamel is extra absorbent so careful about what you drink and eat in the week following your treatment. Obvious things to avoid include coffee, tea, cola drinks and red wine, but be aware that foods such as ketchup, soy sauce, or foods containing colorful spices such as turmeric or saffron can also stain your newly whitened teeth.
It’s also best to avoid acidic or icy cold foods and drinks, as your gums and teeth will likely be sensitive after a whitening treatment.
Here’s one bit of potentially sad news though: whitening treatments don’t work for everybody. People with yellow-tinted teeth tend to see the best results. Those with a brownish tint to their teeth are likely to see some improvement. If your teeth have a gray tint – which is often caused by taking tetracycline antibiotics, smoking, or overexposure to fluoride – bleaching may not provide any whitening at all. Talk to your dentist about other cosmetic treatments that can help to enhance the appearance of your teeth.
And do ask your dentist for advice before trying at home whitening products if you’ve had restorative treatments such as bonding, veneers, crowns, fillings in the front of your teeth, or if your teeth are badly stained. Do-it-yourself whitening treatments can damage previous dental work, or create unevenly colored teeth.
Your dentist may also advise you to not to whiten your teeth if you have gum disease, fragile dental enamel, especially sensitive teeth, or specific medical conditions.
Dental insurance typically does not provide coverage for cosmetic treatments such as whitening. But dental savings plans, an alternative to traditional dental insurance, often do provide an average discount of 20% off on professional whitening treatments from a nationwide network of dentists.
Dental savings plans also provide savings of 10%-60% on a wide variety of preventive dental care – including cleanings, checkups and x-rays – and restorative treatments. Dental savings plans typically can be used within 72 hours of purchase or less (many plans activate within 24 hours).
Find out more about dental savings plans at dentalplans.com. Happy holidays!