Everyone wants a nice healthy looking white smile, and there are lots of teeth whitening systems on the market, including whitening strips, toothpaste, and mouth trays, or you can choose to have your teeth bleached in the dental office. Teeth whitening uses a peroxide solution to lighten the color of your teeth, and this is why you’ll also hear the process referred to as teeth bleaching. The four main methods of teeth whitening are:
Whitening Toothpaste and Rinses
Whitening toothpaste contains a mild abrasive or chemical agent which gently removes surface stains. These products don’t contain bleach, and only have a mild effect. Whitening rinses help to reduce dental plaque and gum disease, but also contain a mild solution of hydrogen peroxide, gently whitening teeth, and once again will only have a slight effect. These products are perfect if you only want to brighten up your smile a little bit.
Over-the-Counter Whitening Strips and Gels
Whitening strips are almost invisible strips that are coated with a peroxide-based gel. They are generally used twice a day for 30 minutes each time for around two weeks. The results last for several months. Whitening gels are a clear gel containing peroxide which is painted directly onto the surface of your teeth, twice a day for two weeks. Results are similar to the whitening strips.
Tray-Based Tooth Whitening Systems
This type of system can either be purchased over-the-counter at your local drugstore, or you can have custom-made trays from your dentist. The tray is very similar to a mouthguard, and is filled with a peroxide based gel, and is either left in the mouth for a couple of hours, or even overnight for a period of a couple of weeks or so.
In office teeth whitening
The fastest way to have your teeth bleached is to have it done in your dental office. The whitening agent is applied directly to the teeth, and is then activated with either a special light or laser. It can take as little as an hour to complete the treatment, and it can be pretty dramatic. But this method is also the most expensive.
If you are in a hurry to whiten your teeth, then it’s definitely best to have it done at your dental office. However the other methods have their advantages especially as they’re less expensive and the results are more controllable. As your teeth are gradually lightened over a period of days, you can control the degree of bleaching.
But is it suitable for everyone? In short, no, and you must visit your dental office first for a full checkup before using any sort of whitening product.
Teeth whitening is perfect for anyone who has healthy teeth and gums, but it’s worth anyone who has the following conditions seeking advice first:
- Sensitive teeth and gums may be irritated by the bleaching products, and if you are allergic to peroxide then you shouldn’t use teeth whitening products.
- Gum disease. If you have gum disease or any cavities, then these must be treated before whitening your teeth. This is because the products will penetrate more deeply into diseased areas, and could cause sensitivity or pain.
- Dental restorations such as fillings or crowns. Dental restorations are not affected by the bleaching process, so unless you are careful you could end up with an uneven result. If you want to have your teeth whitened then it might be best to do this before any dental restorations, so these can be matched to your new color.
- Heavily stained teeth. Certain colors of teeth don’t respond well to bleaching, or the staining may be due to other factors such as antibiotic use, and it may be necessary to use other techniques to whiten your teeth. It’s best to discuss your options with your dentist at your checkup.
Teeth whitening isn’t recommended for anyone under the age of 16 as the center of the tooth (called the pulp) is still enlarged until this age, and is more likely to be sensitive to the treatment. Teeth bleaching isn’t recommended for pregnant women, or women who are breastfeeding.
How Long Do the Effects Last? How Often Can I Bleach My Teeth?
The effects of teeth whitening can last anything between six months to a year, and this can depend on whether or not you smoke, or if you eat or drink a lot of highly colored foods that could stain the teeth. Eventually your teeth will darken, and at that point it can be tempting to overuse bleaching products.
However it’s not worth the risk as you could end up damaging your teeth and gums permanently. Over bleaching your teeth won’t result in a whiter than white smile, but you could end up with your teeth looking grey as all the color is bleached out of them. They are more likely to become more brittle and susceptible to cracks and chips, as bleaching dehydrates teeth. Always follow the instructions given with each product very carefully to make sure you get the best results while your teeth remain healthy.