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The Whitening Center

Oct. 1, 2005
As a team player, the dental hygienist is instrumental in offering products and services to patients.

As a team player, the dental hygienist is instrumental in offering products and services to patients. Treatment options for patients range from basic to comprehensive. While some may not be willing to accept the most expensive option, they might consider a less expensive treatment that is fine for the time being. Several new ideas are available to enhance the esthetic aspect of the dental office.

We have a built-in audience for our oratories. When a patient is in the chair, we have at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted talk time. Let’s face it; all patients can do is listen unless they have on headphones. For the most part, we want to encourage good oral hygiene habits. We want them to keep what they have healthy. But what do we do with patients who are interested in more? Many patients want more, but are unaware of the new techniques available to attain that more. With so many practices focusing on esthetics, a wonderful idea is to establish the hygiene corner as a whitening center, a genuine way to increase productivity and profit.

Patients feel comfortable asking us about our favorite toothpaste or toothbrush. They want to use what we use, especially if our teeth are whiter and brighter than theirs. With all of the products available, we should take advantage of the audience at our fingertips.

How many times do we take diagnostic cast impressions? These can serve two purposes. Why not offer a whitening product to the patient? The impressions are already snapped, all you have to do is fabricate the trays. Patients enjoy instant gratification. If the patient has minimal anterior restorative needs and receives whitening early in the professional relationship, this creates a very happy patient who is receptive to other dental procedures.

Careful case selection is important. Whitening may need to occur later in the treatment plan for patients with extensive restorative needs. When the postorthodontic or bruxism patient is in the chair, and we take a set of impressions for the retainer, this is yet another time to offer whitening. The plethora of carbamide and hydrogen peroxide products makes it easy to discuss the benefits of double duty for the impression.

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What about patients who are interested in whitening, but no matter how many benefits we list, are not willing or able to jump into a high priced esthetic procedure? Or how about those who are willing to spend a little more time and invest a little less money?

Office-dispensed whitening products vary with respect to strength, duration of usable product available in the package, and cost to the dental office. The focus of these products ranges from enticing patients to enter the world of whitening, or offering patients the ability to enhance their self-esteem with a quality product. The variety of whitening products brings a variety of fees.

There are options in almost every price range. Some are available in-office, and some are offered in retail outlets. Proper treatment planning and diagnosis must come into play with these choices, as well as thorough discussions of expectations.

Crest Whitestrips have been available for many years. Proctor & Gamble offers a variety of strengths, with the highest potency available through dental offices only. A clear plastic strip is affixed to the teeth for a prescribed period of time. Patients can use them on the way to work, at the gym, or in the privacy of their homes. The strips are virtually invisible and usually extend to the distal of the canines. Two formulas are offered for dental office distribution: a professional kit, which has 6.5 percent hydrogen peroxide concentration, and a supreme kit, which has 14 percent H2O2 concentration. Both kits offer a three-week supply. The strength of the product distributed in the dental office is equal to four boxes sold through retail outlets.

Opalescence introduced Treswhite last year. This whitening product comes in two flavors and is comprised of 9 percent H2O2 gel set into a disposable adaptive arch delivery tray, with a gingival barrier. Patients wear this tray for 30 minutes and the package contains 20 trays. Treswhite is distributed only through dental offices.

Oral-B has joined forces with Rembrandt to introduce their Whitening Strips. The strips are composed of 8 percent H2O2 gel. This option has just been introduced to the retail market, and is also available to dental offices. There are 14 strips in the package, which is approximately one week’s worth. Application time is 30 minutes. All of these adhesive products whiten over five to seven days. Whiteness depends on the starting shade and the ever-important patient compliance.

Paint-on products are also available. Colgate Simply White offers two strengths of carbamide peroxide gel for patients to brush on. The gel contains a polymer that dries on the teeth and eliminates the need for a tray. Oral-B Rembrandt Whitening Pen is gel delivered via an applicator. Patients paint on a quick drying gel and leave it on all night. Brite Smile has a brush-on whitening gel that is an extra to their whitening system and is available in retail outlets.

We’re always looking for a little niche or manner to make our practices unique. Incorporating any of the entry-level whitening procedures or tooth gems are great ideas for internal and external marketing. They definitely add some sparkle to patients’ smiles!

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, has been in the private practice of family and preventive dentistry for more than 20 years. A dental hygiene graduate of Loyola University, prior to receiving her dental degree, her current passion is focusing on women’s health and well-being issues. She may be contacted at (847) 677-1101 or [email protected].


An extra gleam: Jewelry?

What about other items to help brighten and dazzle? We adorn ourselves with gold, silver, and diamonds. Why not adorn our teeth? Two ingenious dental companies are marketing jewelry items for teeth. These tooth gems are easily affixed to the enamel with bonding and create quite a sparkle. I have added this to my practice, and it is rewarding for both the patient and me. Patients of all ages enjoy these little gems.

Bonding tooth gems is easy. The dental hygienist places them on any buccal or facial surface of the tooth, and uses a clear bonding material similar to what is used with dental sealants. Minimal time and materials are needed. Once the crystal is attached, it is maintenance free. These new options may open a sparkling marketing opportunity for your practice. Two companies, Twindent SA and Decodent, distribute tooth jewelry, which is very popular in Europe.