One of the most common concerns our patients have about their smiles is how to make them whiter—and they are not alone. Dental tooth whitening is a billion-dollar industry in the United States, and a trip to any drug store yields dozens of products all claiming to whiten and brighten teeth.
With so many products claiming to be the latest and greatest, how can you be sure the product you’re buying will be effective, and importantly, safe for you to use?
Before starting any dental whitening program, it is best to come into our office for an exam. Undiagnosed cavities or gingival recession can lead to significant and lingering tooth sensitivity. Our team can also answer any specific questions you may have.
The top of the line, most-effective dental whitening systems are in-office or take-home kits provided by our office. For take-home kits, molds of the teeth are made and custom-fit, clear trays are fabricated. Prescription-strength carbamide peroxide gels of various concentrations are applied and the trays are worn for 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the patient and concentration of the gel. Over the course of a few weeks, teeth can whiten anywhere from three to eight shades. Your dentist will develop a usage regimen to help minimize sensitivity and maximize results.
With the in-office systems, whitening products are applied to the teeth and often used in combination with heat or a special light. While these treatments usually produce the most rapid results, they may also be associated with the greatest risk of tooth sensitivity. We no longer offer this whitening service in our office, due to the risk of sensitivity and optimal results our patients achieve with the take-home kits.
Over-the-counter whitening strips, which are also peroxide-based, are applied to the teeth and worn for several hours over the course of two to four weeks. These products come in less concentrated forms than prescription gels, and are sometimes difficult to apply and keep in position on the teeth.
Most toothpastes contain mild abrasives, which help remove surface stain from teeth. “Whitening” toothpastes and rinses contain additional chemical and polishing agents that improve stain removal. They do not change the natural color of teeth, but may help brighten teeth that have become stained over time. Whitening rinses need to remain in contact with teeth for approximately two minutes and must be used for many weeks before any results are visible.
Different types of stain benefit from different types of whitening products, and crowns, veneers, and bridges will not whiten with any of the treatments discussed here. Some patients, such as children under 16, pregnant women, or those with certain allergies, should not whiten their teeth. If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with us. We will be happy to discuss your specific needs and concerns and work with you to achieve a whiter, brighter smile.