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Thanks to modern science and the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, mask restrictions are easing off a bit, though it's still important to keep up with mask mandates and recommendations (here's Maine's Face Covering FAQs). I'm a dentist, so I'm pretty comfortable with the idea of wearing protective gear.

However, I'm not going to lie, there have been some bonus advantages to wearing a mask out in public over the past year. It's meant being able to run an errand incognito (pre-pandemic, a quick trip to Hannaford to pick up a gallon of milk often turned into a thirty minute meet and greet with patients, friends, the guy who cuts my hair . . .), or not worry too much about having extra garlic knots at Da Vinci's.

It's also pretty amazing to think that 12 months ago many of us were working from home, learning from home, teaching from home and playing from home - though dentistry (brushing and flossing aside) is very much NOT something that can be done remotely.

With COVID rates (thankfully) dropping, and vaccination rates increasing, people are now being asked to return to their cubicles and classrooms. This return to real life has recently lead to an interesting spike in personal hygiene purchases (according to news reports The Great American Cleanup: Deodorant, Teeth Whitener Fly Off the Shelves - WSJ), with deodorant, shaving supplies and teeth whitening products at the top of the list. It turns out that people are now trading in their Zoom meetings for Zoom whitening.

Now, while there are many kinds of over-the-counter tooth whitening products available, they are not going to have the same degree of effect as an in-office whitening procedure, administered by a dental professional, using chemical grade products. Which is exactly why you can't buy those items in the toothpaste aisle at the supermarket, otherwise 1-800-LAWYER-I-BURNT-MY-GUMS-OFF would be plastered on billboards all over downtown.

So how is it different when you at-home it versus when your dental office does it?

Teeth Whitening at Home vs Teeth Whitening at the Dental Office

We actually use a prescription strength gel that doesn't create sensitivity (a common complaint when it comes to the practice of chairside bleaching). The gel contains a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide (between 15-25%) because part of the whitening effect is due to dehydration during the bleaching process. This is what makes teeth initially look whiter at the end of your appointment than their new true color that will "settle in" a few days later.

In a world where we are all trying to be more efficient, the beauty of professional teeth whitening services at the dentist office, aka chairside bleaching, is that it only takes a single appointment which lasts about 90 minutes.

First, we discuss shades and what will complement your face and any existing dental work. Bleaching will not change crowns, bridges, veneers, partials, but the goal is to match everything up. Impressions are then taken for trays (which you can pick up at any point later that week) to be used with a prescription strength take-home syringe of bleach, allowing you to "top up" as needed.

Next, we ensure that your soft tissue is protected by placing a rubber guard over exposed gums which prevents irritation. The bleach is then painted onto your teeth and left to process for 15-30 minutes, under a light which activates the chemicals. The bleach is washed off and this process is repeated.

The good news is that teeth can whiten anywhere from two to three shades and even up to eight shades from where we started. But it will take a couple of days for your teeth to achieve their maximum shade. Keep in mind that bleaching is like many other cosmetic procedures and will need to be maintained over time as teeth become stained. Realistically, the effects of in-office whitening can last anywhere from one to three years (depending on your Dunkin Donuts iced coffee habit). The other good news is that maintenance touch-ups are super easy (and can be done at home).

Show Off Your Smile

If you've been holding off on routine appointments, or any other dental treatment this last year, due to the pandemic, please give us a call. If you've been keeping up with preventive appointments and disease control, but are now looking to take care of elective, cosmetic treatment as you head back into the office (or off to school), give us a call. We can definitely get you ready to show off your smile again!

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