If you want to get rid of yellow teeth, there are plenty of options afforded to you. Over-the-counter products like strips, gels, and toothpaste are popular choices. But they're also less reliable and require more time with less promising results.
If you want to maximize your results in a relatively short amount of time, you might opt for professional teeth whitening at the dentist's office.
But how long can you expect to be in the chair? Since in-office teeth whitening requires multiple appointments and steps, it's important to set time aside and plan ahead.
This article tells you everything you need to know about how long a teeth whitening appointment takes and additional factors you'll need to make time for.
How Long Does It Take For The Dentist To Whiten Teeth?
Generally speaking, a professional teeth whitening appointment can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half. If you need to attend multiple appointments, you can expect the entire process to take around two to four weeks (given that there are no scheduling conflicts).
The length of a teeth whitening appointment will really depend on the degree of staining or discoloration that you have, as well as its cause. Some discolorations are deeper and require more time for bleaching agents to work. In these cases, appointments may take longer.
It's important to note that the length of your teeth whitening appointment will also depend on the type of bleaching agent used. Your dentist might use a combination of hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide to achieve an optimal result. This could increase the amount of time needed for each whitening session.
Because the whitening process is gradual, your dentist may also recommend maintaining a regular schedule of touch-up appointments to maintain the whiteness of your teeth and avoid staining, which can take additional time.
Factors That Impact The Teeth Whitening Process
The length of time that it takes for professional teeth whitening to work depends on several factors.
1. Your Overall Oral Health
Your overall oral health has an impact on how long the bleaching process will take. If your teeth are covered in plaque or tartar, they will need to be cleaned and polished before any bleaching agents can be applied.
And if your dental health is significantly compromised (e.g., you have cavities or gum disease), bleaching may not be an appropriate option for you in the first place.
If you suffer from a preexisting oral health condition, fixing that before undergoing any whitening treatment is an absolute must.
2. The Level Of Discoloration
The type of staining or discoloration can also affect how long it takes for teeth whitening to take effect. If you have deep-set stains or black dots on teeth, your dentist may need to use stronger bleaching agents and longer application times to get the desired results.
If your stains result from years of bad habits like smoking, drinking coffee, or eating dark-pigmented foods, then it might take even longer for teeth whitening to work.
3. Your Sensitivity To The Process
Research shows a significant increase in the level of tooth sensitivity experienced by people during the whitening process. This sensation can last up to 72 hours after each appointment and is often described as a shooting pain or prickling feeling.
For those with chronic sensitivity, this could make teeth whitening sessions longer, as the dentist will likely use a gentler bleaching agent or take extra breaks during the appointment to reduce sensitivity.
Your dentist can help you determine the best approach for avoiding sensitivity, including using desensitizing agents or lower-concentration bleaching solutions.
4. The Teeth Whitening Method Used
As a dental patient, you have a few different teeth whitening options.
- LED Whitening: These days, the most common is an LED-activated whitening system, which involves an LED light and a special gel to break down the staining molecules on the surface of your teeth. This method is often done in one appointment, but it could take longer depending on how severe the discoloration is.
- Teeth Bleaching: Some dentists still use traditional methods such as tray-based bleaching, which is usually a multi-visit process. This method involves applying a special gel to your teeth and wearing a tray over them for up to 15 minutes at a time. Each session can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the severity of the discoloration.
- Zoom Whitening: A new, popular method is Zoom whitening, which uses a hydrogen peroxide-based bleaching agent and an LED light to break down surface stains. This short process typically takes one appointment that takes about 45 minutes.
5. Scheduling Issues
Chances are, you have a busy schedule (and so does your dentist). If your teeth whitening treatment requires a multi-visit process, it’s important to factor in scheduling issues.
Depending on the availability of both you and your dentist, it could take longer than expected to complete the process. Some teeth whitening procedures can be taken care of on your lunch break or between meetings, but tooth sensitivity, preexisting conditions, deep discoloration, or cheaper methods can all make the process much longer.
Other Factors To Consider
In addition to the factors above, it’s important to keep in mind that each person's teeth whitening experience may be different.
Here are a few other factors to consider when whitening your teeth:
The cost of teeth whitening can vary depending on the type of whitening system used and the severity of your tooth discoloration. Some systems require multiple visits, while others may be done in one appointment.
The cost can also depend on how much bleach is used and whether or not you will need any additional treatments (such as polishing).
On the low end, patients can expect to pay between $300 and $600 for a professional teeth whitening procedure.
For laser bleaching treatments, the cost will reach over $1,000.
Teeth whitening is not a permanent solution. One study found the positive results of in-office tooth bleaching were sustained for at least one month. Participants may have even seen longer-lasting effects, as evaluation concluded after 30 days.
Experts agree that professional teeth whitening can be a lasting investment, with results that range from months to years. But maintenance is still imminent—the effects of teeth whitening gradually fade over time due to re-staining and regular wear.
Maintenance requirements mean additional time and money spent to keep your teeth looking their best.
Although professional teeth whitening is generally considered safe, there are a few potential side effects and risks associated with the procedure. These may include tooth sensitivity, gum irritation, and temporary discoloration of the gums or enamel.
To avoid any complications after whitening your teeth, it’s important to follow the instructions provided by your dentist and avoid doing anything that could damage your newly whitened teeth, such as smoking or eating foods with deep colors.
If you have teeth sensitivity, there are plenty of ways to whiten teeth naturally beforehand to speed up the process.
Want to learn more? Here are a few questions our customers frequently ask us.
Is At-Home Follow-Up Care Necessary?
Yes, at-home follow-up care is necessary for best results. After your in-office treatment, it's important to use fluoride toothpaste, mouthwash, and your take-home teeth whitening kit (if you are given one). This will help maintain the effects of teeth whitening and reduce the occurrence of re-staining.
How Quick Is Professional Teeth Whitening Compared To Other Methods?
Since professional teeth whitening can show results in as little as one visit, it is one of the fastest whitening methods available. Over-the-counter whitening strips, for example, often require multiple applications over a few weeks to be effective.
How Long Does It Take To See Teeth Whitening Results?
Patients typically see first results within 24 hours of their treatment. But for full results, it could take around two to four weeks. Again, this timeline depends on the factors mentioned above and can vary from patient to patient.
How Many Times Should I Whiten My Teeth Professionally?
Over-whitening your teeth can cause damage to your tooth enamel and increase the risk of tooth sensitivity. It’s generally recommended to wait at least six months between professional whitening treatments, or until you begin to notice re-staining from food or drinks (if longer).
Your dentist can provide guidance on how often to whiten your teeth professionally based on your individual needs.
The Bottom Line
For most people, professional teeth whitening is a safe and effective way to brighten your smile. But there are some factors to consider when deciding whether it’s the right choice for you.
Be sure to consult with your dentist first in order to discuss the best approach for you, including how long the treatment will take, what type of whitening product to use, and how much maintenance will be required.
With the right plan, you can achieve beautiful, long-lasting results from professional whitening.