Whitening lights that are normally used by dentists to accelerate the whitening power of peroxide-based gels applied in-office. These may be LED (light-emitting diode), laser, plasma arc, or halogen, and may emit small amounts of ultraviolet light. Depending on the beam width of a particular light, the hygienist or dental assistant may have to stay with the patient and move the light from tooth to tooth. Also, some bleaching lights filter out IR (infrared light), which is important for limiting the amount of heat experienced during the whitening process.
Lasers are actually a near-infrared light, which raises concerns about the possibility of teeth being exposed to too much heat if the laser is applied for too long. The general guideline is that a laser is only applied for about 15 seconds, so that over the course of about 25 minutes, the teeth are only exposed to the laser about 4 times.
A plasma-arc light filters out infrared emissions and allows the operator to apply the light to all upper and lower teeth at the same time. Plasma-arc treatments take about 90 minutes and usually involve the placement of a tooth-desensitizing agent prior to application of the whitening gel.
Some at-home whitening kits now come with their own LED gel activating light. LED lights don’t generate a lot of heat which is better for teeth, while being able to activate the gel. The light is said to work with gel and stimulates the oxidation reaction that removes stains.
Mouth trays are used to keep the whitening gel in contact with teeth over a period of time without being diluted with saliva. They are usually made of simple plastic. Some can be customized by softening them in boiling water and then worn to fit to teeth. Many do-it-yourself whitening kits include one-size-fits-all trays. Dental offices can also custom make the whitening trays so they fit properly to the specific shape and size of each person’s teeth.
Retractors are plastic devices used to hold your mouth open and your lips away from your teeth during a whitening treatment. They are mostly used in-office, but some people like to use them at home while whitening via the brush-on gel method to improve their results. This way, the peroxide remains on the teeth longer.
Shade guides can help people determine what color their teeth are and what color they’d like their teeth to be. Many at-home whitening kits include a shade guide. Dentists who perform whitening treatments in their office will have one to help them plan your case.
Non-whitening toothpastes that contain fluoride and anti-sensitivity ingredients can also be helpful in the whitening process. Using a normal fluoride or high-fluoride (0.4 to 1.1%) toothpaste after whitening helps the teeth remineralize after whitening. Anti-sensitivity toothpastes can help users deal with some of the sensitivity that may follow whitening treatments until the enamel remineralizes.
Remineralization gels contain calcium, sodium fluoride and phosphates which help strengthen tooth enamel after whitening. The fluoride is necessary to help bind all the minerals together in the enamel. Simply apply the gel to your whitening trays and place trays on your teeth for 5 minutes. Doing this before bed will help your teeth remineralize while you sleep, and also soothe gums.