Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2015 06 Smiling Patient

How to talk with patients about whitening products in the hygiene chair

June 22, 2015
Colleen Olson, RDH, discusses the role of the dental hygienist in talking with patients about whitening products.
One of the questions on our new-patient paperwork reads, “Is there anything you’d like to change about the appearance of your smile?” Sometimes, in speaking with a patient, the question can be taken a step further: “If you had a magic wand and your smile could be anything you wanted it to be, what would it look like?” Questions like these are an easy way to broach the subject of smile esthetics with patients, and most patients indicate that they would like their teeth to be whiter.

At our office, we have several different whitening treatments available. As the hygienist, I explain the benefits of each option so the patient can choose the one that is the best fit. The bleaching system used most often is custom tray whitening with Opalescence 35% take-home bleaching gel. Patients who select this method of whitening have alginate impressions taken and custom trays made from thin, clear plastic. These trays are carefully trimmed right along the gingival margin, so the bleach stays on the teeth and doesn’t leak up onto the gums. I explain to each patient that Opalescence is a strong whitening agent and can burn the gums if the trays are not properly trimmed.

Patients are instructed to squeeze a small amount of bleaching gel in each tooth of their trays and to wear the trays for 30–45 minutes a day for 7–10 days. Patients often have some whitening gel left over from their initial week or so of bleaching, so they are advised to touch up by wearing their trays for a couple of days as necessary. Also, when patients come into our office to receive their bleaching trays and Opalescence gel, we apply a fluoride varnish treatment to help diminish the possible side effect of sensitivity.

For patients who want to reach optimal smile brightness in less than seven days, Philips Zoom is a great option. An in-office treatment, Philips Zoom WhiteSpeed takes approximately 45 minutes to complete, and the patient leaves the office with a smile up to eight shades brighter. Opalescence Boost by Ultradent is also a great product and a fantastic option for patients who are looking for quick, dramatic results. We recommend these options for people who have impending events and no time for trays, as well as for patients who are not compliant with trays. Sensitivity can be more of an issue with these options because all of the whitening is happening in 90 minutes, instead of being spread out over seven days.

Another Philips product that we offer to our patients is Philips Zoom QuickPro, which involves brushing a whitening varnish on the teeth and takes approximately five minutes to apply. After application, the patient can leave the office with instructions to brush the whitening varnish off 30 minutes later. This simple whitening treatment whitens teeth an average of four shades and is a good option for patients who are looking for a quick, cost-effective way to give their smiles a boost.

When patients are concerned with the color of their teeth, dental professionals have a variety of great whitening treatment options for ensuring whiter smiles. The dental hygienist is commonly the person who fields these questions first from patients. It is our job to present the pros and cons of each option in order to help each patient select the one that is most appropriate.


Editor's Note: This article first appeared in Pearls for Your Practice: The Product Navigator. Click here to subscribe. Click here to submit a products article for consideration.

Colleen M. Olson, RDH, earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas A&M University in 2008 and worked in sales for five years. She graduated from the Blinn College Dental Hygiene program in 2013. She is currently a full-time hygienist in private practice in San Antonio, Texas. Colleen enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, Zach, and their dogs, a Great Dane named Shiner and a shepherd mix named Duddley.