Having bright white teeth that are free of stains is an important component of having an attractive smile, which is why teeth whitening is a popular dental treatment. Unfortunately, it’s common for teeth to become discolored or lose their shine over time even if you take good care of them. The things we eat and drink, medications, illness, tobacco use, aging, and more can all affect the enamel (the outer covering of the tooth), dulling its shine.
Though your tooth enamel may look smooth and solid—and it is, in fact, the hardest substance in the human body—it’s actually porous. This means whenever you eat or drink something, tiny amounts can be absorbed by the pores in the enamel, building up gradually. (Think of the effect of years of drinking coffee or wine has, and you’ll get the picture.) Enamel also wears down over time, and as it gets thinner, the teeth may start to look more yellow, because the dentin layer underneath becomes more visible. These factors can and do affect almost everyone.
In most cases, this discoloration and dulling doesn’t have to be permanent. You’ve probably seen whitening products in the drugstore, but do-it-yourself tooth whitening may not be the best idea. The strength of the ingredients in over-the-counter remedies is much lower than that in professional treatments, to the point where some people don’t see any results from them at all. Furthermore, whitening products can cause sensitivity or even tooth damage if they’re not used properly, so it’s always better to have the guidance of a dental professional and the reassurance of knowing you’re using safe, approved treatments. Here’s a rundown of some options for tooth whitening—both over the counter and treatments we provide in our office—with pros and cons.
Whitening Toothpaste (over the counter): Normal toothpaste helps to clean your teeth and strengthen your enamel with fluoride. A whitening toothpaste also has either abrasives to polish the teeth and remove surface stains, or a chemical like hydrogen peroxide to help break down and remove them. These tend to take several weeks to work, and they won’t remove staining that goes deeper than the surface. Prolonged use or overuse can also thin the enamel and cause tooth sensitivity.
Whitening Pen (our office): This is a very affordable way to get bright teeth fast. If you want to have your smile looking brilliant for a special night out or a big event, this will do the trick; it’s ideal for teens or for adults on a budget. As a prescription strength product, it will produce much better results than any drugstore whitening option, and it can be used without a custom-fitted tray. The downside is that the results are temporary, so if you’re looking for long-term whiteness this won’t be your best bet.
Whitening Strips (our office): Yes, you can get whitening strips in the drugstore, but they aren’t as effective as the prescription-strength strips our patients use. These flexible strips are another affordable option for patients who don’t have custom-fit trays and don’t want to splurge on them. Applied to the upper and lower teeth, the strips whiten and brighten the teeth long term. They come ten to a box—we recommend our patients use them for seven days in a row initially to get their teeth looking beautiful, and then use the other three as needed before events or whenever they need a refresh.
Whitening trays/syringes (our office): This is the best method for achieving and maintaining the longest-lasting results, but it is also costs the most. It requires custom trays molded to fit the teeth, which hold the whitening gel against the stained surfaces during treatment, so if you don’t already have a clear retainer or Invisalign trays, we will need to make them. (On the other hand, this makes this treatment perfect for patients who are currently in Invisalign treatment or maintaining with clear retainers afterward, because they already have the trays they need.) The startup pack comes with eight syringes of whitening gel; it’s recommended that you use it every day for about a month if you’re whitening for the first time (or every other day if you experience any tooth sensitivity). After that, you can use any leftover gel to re-treat before events. We also have two-pack refills available if you need more for maintenance.
Desensitizer tray (our office): Any whitening product has the potential to cause some tooth sensitivity, which is why it’s good to work with a dental professional to monitor the health of your teeth. If your teeth are or become sensitive, we can provide a desensitizer tray that will take away the sensitivity, and which can be used before, during, or after treatment.
If you’re self-conscious about yellowing or stained teeth and are considering teeth whitening, we strongly recommend you come talk to us at B Orthodontics first. While it might be tempting to give an over-the-counter product a try, why waste time and money on something that isn’t as effective and might cause problems? We can recommend the right treatment to meet your whitening goals and your budget. We can also advise you on how to maintain the results you achieve with teeth whitening, keeping your teeth healthy and beautiful for years to come.
Everybody deserves a gorgeous smile. To find out more about the safe and effective teeth whitening treatments available at B Orthodontics, contact us here today.