If you require crowns to be placed, it is a good idea to evaluate how you feel about the color of your existing teeth before beginning the process. If you like the color of your teeth, the dentist will then match the crowns to that color. On the other hand, if you feel you would like to whiten or lighten your teeth, it is a good idea to communicate this to your dentist beforehand about tooth whitening. Once the final restorations are made, it will not be possible to change their color without redoing them.
If you desire whiter teeth before the crowns are placed, the best way to achieve this is to talk to your dentist about at-home teeth whitening. With this procedure, custom-fitted plastic trays will be made for your teeth and you will be given some small tubes of dental bleaching material. Your dentist will show you how to place a small amount of bleaching material in the tray and then place the tray in your mouth. The tray is then worn for one to two hours in the evening, depending on the type of material. The biggest advantage of this method of teeth whitening compared to procedures that are done in your dentist's office is, that you are the one who can control how white your teeth will be. Since you are the one in control, you can stop bleaching whenever you feel you have achieved the desired color. The typical bleaching time is one and one-half to two weeks, but it may be longer.
Your teeth may become sensitive to cold air or liquids during the tooth bleaching process. This is normal and will subside and finally go away when you stop bleaching. There are a couple of things you can do to decrease this sensitivity if it arises during the tooth whitening process. One is to only bleach every other night. The other is to have your dentist prescribe for you a fluoride gel that you can place in your custom bleach trays every other evening. The fluoride acts to decrease the sensitivity by coating or sealing the tooth surface. It will not affect the color of your teeth. This is the most reliable way to decrease sensitivity while you bleach. Once you get your teeth to the desired color, your dentist will have you wait about three to four weeks before taking a color match of your new white teeth in order to make the final restoration. During this time, the color of your teeth will be stabilizing.
Once the Restorations Are Placed, What Can You Expect?
Teeth bleaching is a very predictable method for getting white teeth, but the results will not last forever. Since the restorations were placed when your teeth were at their whitest, you will most likely find that in one and a half to two years, the restorations may begin to appear lighter than your natural teeth. This result is to be expected. It is not caused by a change in color of the restorations, but rather by your own teeth getting darker. At this point, all that is required is to, once again, bleach your natural teeth until the color is evened out. Usually, this only requires bleaching a couple of times. After the color is evened out, you can then expect to have the color stability last for another one and a half to two years.
By Greggory Kinzer, DDS, MSD