A common cosmetic procedure, teeth whitening can be done either in a dental office or at home. A walk through any local pharmacy or grocery store can illustrate how many are trying to cash in on the procedure’s popularity, but the choices quickly become overwhelming when looking down the aisle lined with competing products.
Here’s what you need to know.
Most Teeth Can Be Whitened
Darkening occurs for lots of reasons. These include general everyday wear and tear, eating certain foods, drinking certain drinks, and tobacco use. Thankfully, stains from any of the above reasons can be lightened. The only exceptions are teeth stained a very specific and dark shade of grey or those stained by childhood antibiotic use.
Professional vs. Over-the-Counter
There are two main advantages to over-the-counter teeth whitening kits: cost and ease of use. Many consumers enjoy the convenience of at-home products that allow them to skip an extra trip to the dentist.
As you might expect, professional teeth whitening treatments offer better results than do-it-yourself, over-the-counter kits. There are a number of limitations put on how much an over-the-counter kit can do for you, and those are all eliminated with a professional visit when you have expert hands doing the work with the state of the art technology.
Going to your dentist for teeth whitening provides three main benefits
- Dentists use custom trays. These ensure an even coat of whitening solution is applied across your teeth. Even distribution results in even whitening.
- Higher Gel Concentration. This means that you can get better results in less time.
- Professional advice. Many people who use over-the-counter whitening solutions find patches of discoloration where the gel affected their fillings or crowns differently than their teeth, leaving them with a spotted smile. A dentist can provide more consistent results.
Types of Whitening
Dentists use two types of teeth whitening procedures, bleaching and non-bleaching.
Bleaching procedures often rely on carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide as the active ingredient. This helps to remove both deep-set and surface stains. Your options for teeth whitening with bleaching include:
- Light-activated whitening, also called chairside bleaching, provides results almost instantly. Annual follow-up treatments are typically necessary to maintain results.
- Custom mouthpieces for in-home bleaching. These can be worn for several hours a day, or overnight, for up to two weeks. Once you notice your teeth beginning to stain again, you can just begin a new two-week cycle wearing the mouthpiece.
- Over-the-counter teeth whitening products. These often include a boil and bite tray molding similar to what you find with boxing or football mouthpieces. These products are considerably less expensive though they do not provide as strong results as other options.
Non-bleaching whiteners work via a physical and/or chemical reaction to remove surface stains. Just like brushing your teeth, this process applies mild abrasion to the surface to remove stains. Whitening toothpastes also contain a polishing agent that helps buff out stains.