It has been said that the most important fashion accessory you can wear is a smile. One way many people choose to improve the look of their smile is through whitening their teeth. Teeth whitening is the most frequently requested dental procedure and has become a multi-billion-dollar industry.
It is best to consult a professional when considering any procedure that involves your dental health. There are several options to whiten your teeth. Your dentist will be able to explain them to you, helping you choose the fastest, safest, and most effective method brighten your smile.
Why Aren’t My Teeth White Anymore?
Over time, you may notice your teeth becoming dull and changing color. Shades of yellow, brown, and even grey are not uncommon. Several factors can contribute to your teeth losing their luster. The causes can be divided into two types—intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external.)
Intrinsic causes of tooth discoloration include heredity, aging, tooth decay, and overexposure to fluoride.
Extrinsic causes come from conditions that can usually be avoided like coffee, tea, wine, and tobacco. Sometimes, certain diseases and medications, particularly antibiotics, can stain your teeth.
Typically, teeth whitening has better results tackling problems caused by food, drink, and smoking than by medical issues and genetics. Teeth with yellow discoloration respond best to whitening agents. Some brown or grey teeth, unfortunately, may not be able to be whitened.
Options for a Brighter Smile
Teeth whitening products use a peroxide solution to bleach the teeth. Several products are on the market and can be purchased at your local drug store at a reasonable price. But some are more effective than others, and you can spend a lot of money searching for something that works for you.
You can get teeth whitening from a dentist instead. The dentist can either administer the whitening agent in his office or will offer customized products you can use at home. Teeth whitening with a dentist may be more expensive than over-the-counter options. But having a professional supervise the process has its advantages. Your dentist will be able to provide you with cost information and data about his success rates.
Choosing to Do Teeth Whitening Yourself
At-home teeth whitening is widely advertised and readily available. It takes the form of:
- Whitening toothpaste
- Whitening mouth rinses
- Gel strips (plastic strips that stick to your teeth)
- Whitening tray (molds that are filled with whitening gel and placed over the teeth)
Toothpaste and rinses may help with some minor surface staining on the teeth if used regularly. Gel strips and whitening trays tend to have better results. Results vary widely though, and it may take numerous applications before any noticeable improvement.
These products are a popular option with many consumers. They are inexpensive and they don’t require a visit to the dentist. But an appointment with a professional can help you zero in on the whitening method that will work best for your particular issue. That can save you time and money in the long run.
Why a Professional May Be Better
If your stains are resistant to at-home treatments, you may want to consider teeth whitening with a dentist.
Because the process is supervised by a professional, a much stronger solution can be used. Over-the-counter products contain 3 to 20% hydrogen peroxide solution, while dentist-administered whiteners contain 15 to 43%.
Since the whitening agents used are stronger, they work more quickly. Results can be visible immediately after one 30 to 60-minute treatment. After several visits, patients report that their teeth are 3 to 8 shades brighter.
A Dentist Can Help You Avoid the Pitfalls
Not only can dentists achieve faster and more noticeable results, they can also take steps to protect you from some of the mistakes you can make with do-it-yourself products.
The chemicals used in teeth whitening can be harsh on gums, especially if they are already sensitive. Dentists take special precautions to protect your gums during the process.
If you use over-the-counter whitening trays, they are “one-size-fits-all.” Since they may not fit over the teeth perfectly, they can rub and irritate your gums. Your dentist can provide customized trays for a personalized fit.
It is also possible to over-use whitening products. Overuse can cause softening of the teeth’s enamel. You will want to be cautious if you have fillings or crowns that match the color of your teeth. Tooth whiteners don’t work on these materials. Your teeth can end up whiter than your dental work, causing them to stand out instead of blending in. A dentist will make sure you don’t over-whiten.
What Happens During Teeth Whitening With a Dentist
If you decide to start teeth whitening with a dentist, the process is safe and effective.
- First, your dentist will prepare your teeth with a thorough exam and cleaning.
- Next, a liquid, rubber-like resin is applied to your gums to protect them from the harsh whitening chemicals.
- The whitening agent – usually a hydrogen peroxide bleaching gel – will be applied to your teeth and allowed to sit for 15 to 30 minutes. A device might be used to shine a light on the teeth to help activate the process.
- The whitening agent is cleaned off and reapplied, sitting for another 15 to 30 minutes.
- This final step may be repeated a few more times at each visit.
- Additional visits may be required until your teeth reach the desired brightness.
Is It Worth It?
Teeth whitening with a dentist may cost more, but it has become a popular way to brighten a smile. Stubborn stains and sensitive gums are two main reasons why a dentist may be your best choice. Having a professional oversee the process can ensure it is safe and comfortable. You may decide it is worth the extra cost.
Check with your dentist to see which teeth whitening method is best for you. If you need to find a dentist, use our online tool to find one near you.