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Laser Teeth Whitening and Tooth Decay - Any Connection?

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Laser Teeth Whitening and Tooth Decay - Any Connection?

Dr. Hosseini

Dealing with stained teeth or faded smile can be challenging. It affects the teeth' appearance and causes many other oral health issues. Studies show that as much as 67% of the American populace has tried teeth whitening, and many more are considering it. It is also prevalent in other countries where people want good teeth appearance and better oral health. 

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends consulting your dentist before opting for laser teeth whitening. As per your oral health, the dentist can assess whether laser treatment is the right course for you. Many people aspire to avail of laser teeth whitening because it is painless and non-invasive. However, it may cause tooth decay, erosion, or permanently damages your tooth. Find out more about laser teeth whitening and tooth decay in this article.

Laser Teeth Whitening: Quick Overview

Laser teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure to reduce discoloration on teeth. It uses laser and bleaching gel to elevate the appearance of teeth. Besides giving better aesthetics, laser teeth whitening helps remove plaque and tartar efficiently. This treatment is better than at-home whitening kits and offers impressive results. 

Recent estimates show that around 78% of users have benefitted from laser teeth whitening. However, some cases also reported a higher tooth sensitivity. A slight discomfort or sensitivity is common, especially after 24 hours of the treatment. But some people have more gum irritation and teeth sensitivity than others. If you know your higher teeth sensitivity, let your dentist know before opting for laser teeth whitening. 

ADA Guidelines on Laser Teeth Whitening 

ADA recommends using laser teeth whitening at a moderate level. Over-whitening can harm the tooth enamel, which can, in turn, cause tooth decay. The dentist should examine the patient's oral state to know how much whitening is required. 

ADA also suggests addressing gum disease or tooth decay well on time. However, it does not recommend laser teeth whitening on decayed and affected gums. Otherwise, it will cause gum irritation and severe toothache. Mixing teeth whitening and tooth decay can result in permanent damage. 

A tooth damaged by decay usually needs root canal therapy. It is a process that aims at removing the infection from inside a tooth. Also, it relieves the patient from dental pain caused by the disease. As the last step, the orthodontist places a crown on the affected tooth for tooth protection and stability. However, your dentist must hold off covering the tooth with a crown cap until the end of your whitening procedure. Dental materials such as fillings or crowns are not responsive to whitening treatments. Therefore, placing them on the teeth after the process is best.

How does Laser Whitening Work?  

  1. Before the procedure, the patient and the doctor wear protective eyewear. 
  2. Following this, ultrasonic equipment cleans the teeth and gums, removing germs, tartar, and plaque from the tooth surfaces before airflow dries the area. 
  3. The next step involves protecting the lips and gums from electromagnetic radiation by applying a shielding gel and then covering them with a gum protector and cotton wool strips. 
  4. Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide gel is applied to each tooth with a spatula, taking care to avoid the gums. This goal is to lessen the laser's destructive effects on the soft tissues. 
  5. At this point, the teeth are ready to undergo laser therapy. Each tooth receives 30 seconds of laser treatment. Laser Light has many roles in this process; it is photochemical, photothermal, and photocatalytic. 
  6. Once the gel has stayed on the teeth for ten minutes, applying the fresh coating is helpful five to ten minutes later. The dentist will administer the gel as often as four times in a single treatment session. 
  7. The laser heats the applied bleach paste, which either includes argon or carbon dioxide, and the laser quickly warms the oxygen there. 
  8. The molecules penetrate the tooth enamel, breaking down the stain's chemical connections and leaving the teeth whiter and brighter in their wake. 
  9. The teeth are then cleansed and entirely dried before being covered with a fluorine-containing gel. In the end, cotton wool removes any residual gel.


“According to this statistic, 37.0 million Americans used tooth whiteners in 2020.” 

(Reference: Statista: Consumer Goods & FMCG)

Treatment Limitations

The procedure helps remove moderate discolorations, such as the yellow or brownish stains caused by age-related dentine exposure or a response to medication like tetracycline. However, professionals have recorded compromised results with white or gray stains in appearance or periodontitis, gingivitis stains produced by "dead" teeth in the dental cavity. 

Another limitation of laser therapy is that the bleaching effect may be less intense if the treated teeth already have veneers, bonding, or crowns. Nonetheless, if the patient is interested, it entails taking out the restorations, bleaching the teeth, and putting in new veneers that are a close match. However, this constrains the scope of potential future therapies. 

Laser Teeth Whitening and Tooth Decay 

You might wonder about the connection between laser teeth whitening and tooth decay. Is it genuine, direct, or indirect? Laser teeth whitening doesn't cause tooth decay directly. However, if the whitening process is overused, it may erode the tooth enamel or result in deterioration. 

Having tooth decay doesn't automatically disqualify a person from having laser teeth whitening. It simply means that the dentist must address the patient's decayed tooth or cavities before proceeding with the treatment. Otherwise, things will get worse, and the decayed tooth will end up permanently damaging the tooth. 

When is Laser Whitening Treatment not a good idea? 

Sensitive Teeth 

This therapy uses hydrogen and carbamide peroxide in very high concentrations, at a 30 percent increase above regular consumption. Tooth discomfort and mild irritation may occur at this level. Teeth that are already sensitive should avoid it. 

Also, patients should steer clear of anything extremely hot or cold over the next forty-eight hours after the treatment. Straws are effective while consuming beverages to reduce further the risk of triggering incidents. Potassium nitrate-based sensitive kinds of toothpaste can also help. 

Dental pulp injury 

If the dentine is thin and exposed, using a laser to lighten the stain might do much harm. Too much is bad for the teeth because it eats away at the pulp, bone, ligament, and nerves. Both the ultrasonic cleaning and the laser used in the treatment produce heat. 

Trauma and inflammation of the gums 

Professionals suggest that to prevent irritation or damage to the gums, lips, or other oral tissues from the bleach and heat, the laser whitening procedure should start by using gum guards, cheek retractors, soothing gels, desensitizing pastes, and cotton wool. Patients with preexisting gum diseases are especially at risk for experiencing complications if the dentist does not adequately safeguard their teeth throughout the procedure. 

Wrap Up

Brighten your teeth, optimize your oral health, and feel fresh. Laser teeth whitening is a safe way to brighten discolored teeth. However, it's unsafe to use if you suffer from gum disease or have tooth decay. Your dentist must address these problems beforehand, so your gums or teeth are not damaged. If you are a candidate for laser teeth whitening, visit your nearest dentist today.


Teeth Cleaning and Deep Cleaning

Contact your Pinole dentist, Azadeh Hosseini, DDS, or Ghazal Hosseini, DDS, at Top Pinole Dental to learn about Laser Teeth Whitening and Tooth Decay.

*This media/content or any other on this website does not prescribe, recommend, or prevent any treatment or procedure. Therefore, we highly recommend that you get the advice of a qualified dentist or other medical practitioners regarding your specific dental condition*