Methods for Whitening Your Teeth
Your smile is a very important part of how you present yourself, consciously or not. Although you might take great care of your teeth by brushing and flossing regularly, coffee, tea and cigarettes can still rob them of their pearlescent luster. However, there is a way to get back that youthful, healthy smile. Teeth whitening has gained popularity in recent years, due in great part to a wider variety of options that range from the most professional work you can afford, to any number of more affordable alternatives you can try at home.
Professional teeth whitening is the safest and most powerful way to whiten your teeth and produces visible results faster than any other method. Unlike other systems designed to be used at home, in-office bleaching involves the use of highly concentrated gels and special lighting equipment, in a controlled environment. Protective compounds or rubber shields are often used to reduce irritation in the gums. This results in a more effective, yet virtually pain-free procedure. The bleaching agents used by dentists today are also thicker, which means they are not absorbed as deeply into the teeth, further reducing the sensitivity often associated with professional bleaching. In-office bleaching is the most expensive method of them all, often requiring multiple sessions and follow-up visits.
When it comes to saving money, you can save a considerable amount by using an at-home whitening system.
- Tray-based teeth whiteners use a gel consisting of carbamide peroxide in various concentrations to bleach the enamel of the tooth. The gel is placed in a tray that can even be custom-made to fit your teeth perfectly, if obtained through your dentist. This procedure may have to be repeated a number of times over a period of days or weeks, in order to obtain the desired result, based upon the level of discoloration in the teeth and the degree of whitening desired (WebMD.com). Though users might experience some degree of sensitivity, it is usually temporary and begins to go away when the treatment period is over (ADA.org). Some kiosks found at malls use similar methods, while giving their customers the materials needed to make their own customized trays, such as the ones a dentist could provide. The difference lies in that their bleaching gels are still less concentrated than what a dentist would use.
- Whitening strips are an even more affordable at-home method of whitening teeth. The strips are made of polyethylene, which is a very thin and flexible type of plastic. They’re typically coated with either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide and come in kits that contain sets for both the upper and lower teeth. Application involves simply sticking them over the teeth as one would apply a stick-on bandage. Depending on the concentration of peroxide, they are used repeatedly for either 7 or 14 days. There are also some whitening strips that are designed to dissolve on the teeth, eliminating the need to remove them.
- Whitening gels are also peroxide based, yet don’t require any type of apparatus, other than the small brush that comes with the kit. The user simply applies the gel directly to the teeth twice a day, for about 14 days. Some results are noticed initially, within the first few days.
- Whitening toothpastes have become increasingly popular and are one of the simplest methods available for teeth whitening. However, unlike other methods, whitening toothpastes use special chemical agents containing both peroxide and abrasive particles such as silica to polish off accumulated stains that have absorbed into the teeth. Since the concentration of peroxide is relatively low compared to other systems, it’s the abrasives that actually do most of the work. Time spent brushing is relatively short compared to the time spent wearing a tray or strips, so bleaching agents at such a low concentration aren’t on the teeth long enough to have much of an effect. It should be noted that due to the possibility of the abrasives wearing away at the tooth enamel, many dentists recommend alternating whitening toothpastes with regular ones, as they only need to be used for short periods of time.
- Whitening rinses offer many of the same benefits as other mouthwashes, with regard to plaque and fresh breath, as well as containing hydrogen peroxide for whitening. However, much like the whitening toothpastes, results may take significantly longer to come by because the peroxide is only in contact with the teeth for the 60 seconds or so of recommended rinsing time. Manufacturers typically recommend using them twice a day and state that significant results may take up to 12 weeks.
Whichever method you choose to use, there are limitations of some sort in every method and it’s worth remembering that no form of teeth whitening is permanent. The degree of results depends very much on the condition of your teeth to begin with, as well as the nature of the stains and the type of system used. In addition, teeth whitening is not recommended for children under 16, as well as anyone with gum disease or those who have more serious problems with their teeth (WebMD.com). The smart thing to do is to talk to your dentist first to see if you’re a good candidate for teeth whitening, before taking any further action.