You have a wide range of choices when it comes to whitening your teeth – from whitening toothpastes, special gels, and strips to packaged whitening systems. These over-the-counter products offer an affordable whitening option that’s safe for almost everyone.
Ask your oral health care professional about tooth-whitening options. They include a number of over-the-counter whitening systems, whitening toothpastes, and the latest high-tech option-laser tooth whitening. For maximum whitening, experts agree that peroxide is usually the way to go.
Tooth whiteners are primed to be the next deodorant: a once-optional form of personal hygiene that’s now simply an obligation. It’s only a matter of time because the more of us who get whitened, the grungier your unwhitened teeth will appear in contrast. Man, look at those choppers! Nasty! Aren’t you going to do something about that? There has lately been a boom in tooth-whitening techniques, both at home and in the dentist’s office.
Supervised bleaching procedures that are done in-office and at-home have become among the most popular treatment options. In some cases, the procedure is performed entirely in the office, using a light or heat source to speed up the bleaching process. In other cases, an oral health care professional gets the procedure started during an office visit and then gives you what you need to complete it at home.
Dentists have been whitening teeth for years. You have two options here: The dentist gives you special equipment, and you do it yourself at home, over a few weeks; or the dentist does it entirely at his office, in a single day.
Professional Teeth Whitening by Dentists
Best teeth whitening. Reviews agree that professional tooth whitening treatments are, by far, the quickest and most successful way to brighten up your pearly whites. This can be done at a dentist-supervised whitening center or by your own dentist, with a teeth whitening procedure. This technique uses light therapy to speed up the bleaching action of hydrogen peroxide, lightening teeth up to ten shades in about an hour. While it’s the most expensive option, it also lasts the longest, up to a couple of years.
At-Home Teeth Whitening
At-home procedures, sometimes called nightguard vital bleaching, consist of placing a bleaching solution, usually a peroxide mixture, in a tray (nightguard) that has been custom fitted for your mouth by an oral health care professional. The bleaching solutions may vary in potency and may be worn for an hour, or throughout the night. Your oral health care professional can advise you on the appropriate type of application and the length of time needed to whiten your teeth, based on the severity of tooth discoloration and your specific needs.
How Effective are Bleaching Systems?
First of all, let’s crush the myth of “whitening toothpaste” for good. I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again: Whitening toothpastes don’t work. They don’t do anything regular toothpastes can’t do. They just cost a whole lot more!
St. Louis-area dentist Dr. William Hartel
Toothpaste – any toothpaste – removes only surface stains. That yellowness that’s bothering you is likely not on your surface enamel (which is transparent and can be polished with toothpaste), but rather in the dentin inside your teeth (where toothpaste can’t reach). Your dentin gets yellower as you get older, even if you don’t smoke tobacco or drink coffee. It’s the yellow within this dentin that hydrogen peroxide can bleach away – when applied correctly and for an extended period.
Whitening toothpastes can effectively remove surface stains with repeated use. They also help keep your newly whitened teeth looking their best. Unlike in-office procedures such as bleaching and laser whitening, every time you brush with a whitening toothpaste you fight off new stains that develop from coffee or tea, tobacco or plaque build-up. Whitening toothpastes help your newly whitened teeth stay that way longer.
So, can you whiten your teeth at home? Yes, but you need a hydrogen peroxide kit that mimics what the dentist does.
Over-the-counter whitening systems are much cheaper, but not nearly as effective or long lasting as professional tooth whitening. Of the various options on the market, Crest Whitestrips earn the highest marks in reviews for convenience and effectiveness, which averages about three shades. One reviewer describes these strips as “little Band-Aids” that you wear on your top and bottom front teeth for 30 minutes twice a day. Crest Whitestrips use 6% peroxide. One drawback is that the strips can cause you to drool, so these are probably best used at home.
Whitening gels work by removing surface stains as well as stains within the teeth. Because they contain special peroxide-based formulas, you’re likely to see a more noticeable change in your tooth color with a whitening gel than with a whitening toothpaste alone. To use just apply the clear whitening gel to the teeth with a brush applicator as directed.
If you’re too busy to spend part of your day waiting for tooth whiteners to work, whitening while you sleep may sound appealing. Colgate Simply White Night is a brush-on whitener that The Wall Street Journal calls one of the easiest to use. Because it’s a brush-on formula, it’s easier to get in between uneven teeth where a strip might not reach. The gel is absorbed, so there’s no need to rinse. Colgate also uses 6% peroxide — the maximum allowable for over-the-counter tooth whiteners.
Whitening strips are also applied directly to the teeth and worn for 30 minutes twice a day.
Whitening systems include bleaching material, often in a concentration of peroxide lower than what you would get with a dentist-supervised tray whitening system.
Bleaching is effective in lightning most stains caused by age, tobacco, coffee, and tea. Based on clinical studies, 96 percent of patients with these kinds of stains experience some lightening effect. Other types of stains, such as those produced by tetracycline use or fluorosis (too much fluoride), respond to bleaching less reliably. And one cosmetic dentist points out that bleaching systems are not fully predictable. If you have a tooth-color filling when your teeth are bleached, the filling will stay yellow – dental restorations do not change color when tooth whitener is applied.
If you have a lot of money that you’d like to spend on your teeth, it may be worth it to go to the dentist for whitening. The effect will be more dramatic and will last much longer. But remember, the at-home dentist treatment still means wearing trays (albeit better-fitting trays), and the in-office treatment can cost up to $1,000. If you want to spend a lot less and still see some results, use some of teeth whitening gel or kit.
Choosing which whitening system to use depends on how quickly you want results, how sensitive your gums and teeth are, and how much you want to pay. With any at-home bleaching method you run the risk of temporary tooth sensitivity or gum irritation. It is a good idea to check with your dentist before beginning any whitening procedure.