Dental Care

Laser Teeth Whitening

Laser teeth whitening has recently become an extremely popular cosmetic dental procedure. 

More and more people are realizing that one of the best ways to make a good first impression is by having a bright, white smile. 

It's no secret that whiter teeth can make almost anyone look more attractive, confident and even younger.  Men and women of all ages are now choosing to have their teeth whitened to improve their smiles.

Although whitening stained or discolored teeth is popular, choosing the method that would be right for you can be a bit confusing.  There are many options and products to choose from, and some can be much more effective than others. 

Having your teeth professionally whitened in your dentist's office is one of your options, and it can be very effective. 

However, even if you settle on having this type of procedure, you'll still have a choice to make:  should you choose a teeth whitening procedure which uses laser lights to activate the whitening solution, or should you opt for a method that bypasses the light activation step? 

Some controversy surrounds the results achieved by the two different methods.  Being aware of this controversy is important, because you'll want to choose the technique that's able to provide the best results but not spend money needlessly. 

So, are bleaching lights such as lasers a necessary component of professional teeth whitening procedures?  Although the manufacturers of laser-activated teeth whitening solutions claim that exposing their products to light not only makes the whitening process faster, but also makes their products more effective, the professional dental community is divided as to whether this claim is fact or fiction. 

Many dentists are not convinced that activating the bleaching substances with laser light actually contributes anything to the teeth whitening process.  Other dentists agree with the manufacturers and believe laser teeth whitening really does enhance the procedure, making it quicker and more effective.

The general concept underlying the laser teeth whitening activation step is a fairly simple one.  In short, "activating" the bleaching substance -typically a compound including either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide- by exposing it to light emitted by a laser or other suitable device, triggers a more rapid breakdown of the whitener into its active ingredients. 

This faster breakdown results in an overall speedier tooth whitening process.  Presumably, the light acts as a catalyst and quickly converts the peroxide in the bleaching compounds into reactive oxygen free radicals.

Of course, the dentist must buy the manufacturer's bleaching light or laser.  These devices can cost several thousand dollars, and in the case of lasers, tens of thousands of dollars.  Until quite recently, many dentists were willing to accept the expense of laser light setups and pass the costs onto their patients. 

The Laser Teeth Whitening Controversy

The controversy began when a few dentists realized the manufacturers' claims were not supported by any clinical studies.  These dentists recognized the need for research intended to either prove or disprove the theory that light activation makes teeth whitening more effective.

Now, a number of research studies have addressed the manufacturers' claims that exposing their teeth whitening products to laser light makes the whitening process not only more effective, but faster. 

Several of these well-designed studies seem to indicate that the bleaching substances used with many professional teeth whitening systems work well, whether or not they've been activated by light. 

Moreover, these teeth whitening products appear to lighten teeth equally well either way.  In other words, these studies indicate that professional teeth whitening will lighten your teeth the same amount whether or not a laser is used to activate the bleaching compound.

These clinical studies were designed with a "split arch" research protocol, with every patient essentially serving as his or her own control.  The teeth on one side of each patient's mouth were treated with the professional whitening compound alone (without the activating light), while the teeth on the other side of the mouth were treated with both the whitening compound and the activating light. 

After the study was completed, the researchers concluded that the teeth on both sides of the mouth were lightened equally well. 

In other words, the manufacturers' claims for the efficacy of their laser teeth whitening process were disproved.  These results -the same degree of whiteness on both sides of the mouth- were seen not only during initial comparisons made immediately after the teeth whitening treatments, but also one year later.

Unsurprisingly, many dentists and manufacturers of teeth whitening products no longer use a light source as part of their teeth whitening systems. 

Whether you use a laser teeth whitening system is up to you and your dentist, but your decision should be an informed one.


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