If you’ve been looking in the mirror lately and feeling unhappy with the color of your teeth, you may be thinking about whitening services. And you may be wondering what the difference is between the services offered by your family dentist and what you can pick up off the shelf in the supermarket. Here’s a look at the options that are out there and the various pros and cons of each.
What causes teeth to yellow?
To begin with, let’s look at what causes teeth to yellow in the first place. Teeth staining can result from a number of things including your consumption habits, dental hygiene, genetic traits, or your environment. The most common discoloration comes from surface stains to the enamel or the dentin beneath the enamel. These come from food, beverages and things like smoking. Such stains may penetrate the enamel to affect the dentin which can darken the whole tooth, turning it a yellowish hue.
So, what whitening methods are available?
There are many whitening products you can pick up at your local grocery store without making a visit to your dentist. Products include toothpastes, rinses, gels, and whitening trays. Any over-the-counter products will contain less bleaching agent than a professional treatment, meaning they will unavoidably have a lesser effect.
All toothpastes contain abrasives which help remove surface stains. Whitening toothpastes that include peroxide can help lighten the color deep in the tooth, but only lightening it about one shade.
Some mouth rinses include a whitening feature as well. These rinses usually take about 12 weeks to be effective. However, because it is only in contact with your teeth for about two minutes a day rather than 30 minutes as a whitening strip would be, you may not get the best results.
Strips and Gels
Clear whitening gels are brushed directly onto the surface of the teeth. Whitening strips are coated with such gels and are applied twice daily for 30 minutes for 14 days. For either procedure, you can begin to see results within a few days that will last about four months.
With this whitening treatment, a mouth guard-like tray is filled with a peroxide-bleach gel and then worn for a couple of hours a day or every night for about four weeks depending on the level of discoloration. These are typically one-size-fits-all which means they might be ill-fitting and cause the gel to irritate the gums. Whitening trays can also be done professionally with the help of a dentist who can create a tray from a mold of your teeth for a better fit.
Most dental offices offer a light-activated whitening treatment that can make your teeth 3-8 shades whiter. With this process, a whitening product is applied directly to the teeth and then activated with heat, light or a laser. Results are seen immediately following a single 30-60 minute treatment. But for more dramatic results, several appointments may be necessary.
This is the most expensive approach but there are many benefits to dentist-assisted whitening. There are more protective measures taken in a dental office including the use of a rubber shield or gel to protect gums and oral cavities from the bleaching. It can also be beneficial to have a dentist guide you through the process, weighing in on what method is most appropriate and help chart your progress.
We hope this quick summary of teeth whitening options proves helpful as you decide what method is best for you. Whatever choice you make, keep in mind that the results don’t last forever and further treatment and touchups will be necessary. Be careful of what you eat and take care of your dental hygiene to get the most mileage from your whitening treatment.