Q:

What happens during a tooth-whitening laser treatment?

A:

Quick Answer

Tooth whitening with a laser is an in-office procedure in which the dentist photographs, examines and cleans the teeth, applies a protectant to the gums, applies bleaching gel and a laser to the teeth, and then removes the gel, explains Colgate. The number of rounds of gel and laser vary.

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Full Answer

Before the procedure, the dentist takes photographs of the teeth to assess their color on a shade guide, states Colgate. These photographs help the dentist monitor the progress of the whitening process.

The dentist conducts a dental exam to check for problems, such as cracks, gum disease or tooth decay, states the Consumer Guide to Dentistry. These issues must be fixed before the dentist can begin the whitening process. Then the dentist cleans the teeth of debris, plaque and bacteria, notes Colgate.

For the procedure, the dentist inserts a cheek retractor into the mouth to expose the "esthetic zone" of the teeth, explains the Consumer Guide to Dentistry. He paints a hardening resin or liquid rubber dam onto the gums to protect them from contact with the bleaching gel.

The dentist applies a hydrogen peroxide bleaching gel to the teeth, notes the Consumer Guide to Dentistry. Depending upon its potency, the gel remains on the teeth 15 to 30 minutes. At this point the dentist shines a laser light on the teeth to activate or enhance the whitening agent.

The dentist washes or suctions off this layer of gel and applies another round, says the Consumer Guide to Dentistry. The number of rounds varies.

This whitening process usually takes one to three appointments, consisting of 30 to 90 minutes each, states Colgate. The number and length of appointments depend upon the whitening method, stain severity and desired tooth whiteness.

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