Everyone wants to enjoy having a bright smile. After all, a nice smile with white teeth can make you more attractive and respectable in the eyes of others, and can also promote confidence and self-respect.
If your smile is not quite as bright as you’d like it to be, what are your options to fix this issue? One option that has grown in popularity over recent years is to visit a “teeth whitening kiosk” at your local mall. However, you may wonder: what exactly does the teeth whitening process consist? Is a visit to a teeth whitening kiosk equivalent to a trip to my dentist? Are there any risks involved?
The following information will answer these questions. First, though, let’s briefly discuss what teeth whitening is.
What is Teeth Whitening?
Teeth whitening is the process by which stains and discolorations are removed from your teeth’s enamel. Teeth whitening is technically different from teeth bleaching, which refers to a procedure or procedures by which your teeth are whitened beyond their original sheen.
Whitening is generally not a one-time procedure, but requires multiple sessions in order to be truly effective. So, what does the teeth whitening process consist?
What is Involved in the Teeth Whitening Process?
The science behind teeth whitening is relatively simple. Teeth whitening pastes and gels contain a bleaching agent (either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide). This bleaching agent can break stain and discoloration matter into smaller pieces, which results in less color concentration from the stain, and thus whiter teeth.
There are two types of whitening processes: vital whitening and non-vital whitening. Vital whitening refers to whitening procedures that involve teeth with live nerves; non-vital whitening involves teeth that have had a root canal treatment, and thus no longer have live nerves.
A typical teeth whitening process at the dentist follows these steps:
- Your dentist will apply a protective substance around your gums. (Alternatively, he/she may use a mouthguard.)
- Once the protective cover is in place, your dentist will apply the whitening agent to your teeth.
- For quicker results, a laser light will shine onto the whitening agent in order to activate it.
Each whitening session at your dental office may take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the current condition of your teeth and the gels and equipment that your dentist uses. For optimal results, you may need to visit your dentist multiple times. If you have sensitive teeth, you may prefer to have your whitening sessions at a dental practice that uses gentle whitening agents.
Of course, there are also several alternatives to an in-office whitening session. For instance, some people decide to get a thorough teeth cleaning at their local dental office, and then take home a custom-fitted whitening tray for further bleaching sessions in the comfort of their own home. Others decide to buy whitening toothpaste that, over time, may provide some positive stain-removal benefits.
Still, others buy an over the counter bleaching product for at-home whitening. If you choose to go this route, make sure that the product in question has the ADA Seal of Acceptance on its packaging. That seal means that the ADA has determined the product to be safe and reasonably effective for use as a whitening agent.
Finally, many decide to visit a kiosk at their local mall for a teeth whitening session. What are some advantages and risks of using such a service?
Should You Get Your Teeth Whitened at the Mall Kiosk?
One of the biggest advantages of visiting a teeth whitening kiosk is the relatively inexpensive cost. Of course, costs will vary from kiosk to kiosk. For example, kiosks may charge customers anywhere from $50 to $100, depending on several factors, such as session length and bleaching agents that are used.
Hydrogen peroxide is the main bleaching ingredient in most whitening gels. Teeth whitening kiosks typically use mild gels that only contain 3% hydrogen peroxide concentration, or even less. In contrast, dentists frequently use gels with 5% hydrogen peroxide concentration (or a much higher concentration with gum protection).
There are several drawbacks and risks associated with a visit to a teeth whitening kiosk. These include the following:
- Lack of effectiveness. The low concentration of hydrogen peroxide in a typical kiosk’s whitening gel is comparable to over the counter bleaching products, or “do-it-yourself” whitening kits. In addition, many kiosk whitening sessions simply don’t last long enough to leave a lasting impact on your teeth.
- Unqualified staff. There is always the possibility that the workers at your local kiosk will try to use tools and techniques that only trained dental professionals should be using. In fact, some time ago an investigation uncovered a number of such occurrences in several teeth whitening operations.
- Damaged gums/teeth. Any time that someone is working in or around your mouth, you want to ensure that the worker in question has been thoroughly trained and accredited by a reputable organization like the ADA. Some bleaching agents, when used improperly, have the potential to cause damage to your gums and/or teeth. When it comes to teeth whitening, the vast majority of kiosk workers simply don’t have the same knowledge and experience that a dental professional has accumulated over the course of his/her career.
It is worth noting that in Europe and some other countries it is illegal to provide services to get your teeth whitened at the mall and other venues without the proper credentials. Such regulations protect the public from untrained and/or unskilled vendors of whitening services and reduce the risk of permanent damage to consumers’ gums and teeth.
As you can tell, while there may be some advantages to visiting a teeth whitening kiosk at your local mall, there are some definite disadvantages, and even risks associated with these businesses as well. The safest course of action is to let a dental professional help restore the brightness to your smile.
At Barron Family Dental, we can help you restore your smile, and your confidence, with a minimal amount of stress and hassle. We want to make you as comfortable as possible while we help bring back the original whiteness of your teeth. Reach out to us to book your appointment today.