What You Need To Know About Teeth Whitening

Wanting white teeth isn’t a fad, it’s human nature. Humans have been trying anything and everything to whiten their teeth going back as far back as 3,000 years. 

We’ve come a long way since chewing sticks, ground ox hoof toothpaste, and filing teeth. In the late 1980s, a whole host of new whitening solutions hit the market and more join them each year. The options seem overwhelming. 

How do you know the right method for you and your family to get the bright white smile we crave? We’ve got your smile’s back, here’s a quick cheat sheet on modern tooth whitening solutions:

To break it down, let’s first look at the techniques and ingredients used to whiten the teeth:

BLEACHING TREATMENTS

  ① UV Exposure
Until recently, UV exposure was something you could only get in a dentist’s chair. Your dentist applies a bleaching -solution based whitening gel to your teeth, then uses a UV light to expedite the gel’s whitening benefits. 

This is accomplished with strong bleaching solution and heat, light or a combination of the two might also be used to improve the whitening. The best part is that your teeth can get up to eight shades lighter, with long-term results lasting one to three years.

Pros

Cons

Immediate results

Expensive

Professionally administered

inconvenient

Can cause sensitivity

Can cause burns

Multiple dentist visits


Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is the main ingredient in most teeth-whitening products.
Like with bleaching your hair, peroxide has a whitening effect because it can pass easily onto teeth and break down complex molecules that lead to discoloration. 

However, simply buying hydrogen peroxide and putting it on your teeth won’t get the results you want; concentrations can be too strong and damage the enamel, or outer coating, of your teeth. Before you go running to your bathroom cabinet to use the hydrogen peroxide from the grocery store, the peroxide used in whitening treatments is usually between 5 and 30 percent dilution while the bottle you have at home is only 3 percent.

Now let’s look at how they’re applied to your teeth:

Tray Whitening

For people who want to put a little extra effort into their teeth whitening solution, tray whiteners may be a good option. It works like this: customers buy trays that either need to be custom-molded to your teeth or they use an out-of-the-box tray that may not form fit as well. The trays have reservoirs in them for the bleaching gel or hydrogen peroxide, which can both vary in concentration, depending on the brand (a good rule of thumb is that at-home systems contain between 3%-20% peroxide and dentist options contain 15%-43%). Some brands also feature Carbamide Peroxide which can get dramatic results.

Pros

Cons

At-home process

Treatments can be costly

Trays can be used for years

Results in 2 weeks

Convenient

Uncomfortable application


Whitening Pens

These pens can be used daily due to their slow-acting bleaching agents. Many use Carbamide Peroxide which whitens the teeth slower than hydrogen peroxide. Pens are simple to use - you simply paint your teeth with the pen and the product dries quickly.

Whitening Pens are great for spot treatments but can be tricky to evenly apply to all your teeth. 

Pros

Cons

Long shelf life

Slow-acting

Easy to use

Can paint and bleach gums

Convenient


Whitening Strips

One of the most cost effective, time efficient, and give the results you want.

Between all of these over-the-counter solutions, the best choice for almost everyone is whitening strips. Results are seen within 3-5 days and can be used almost endlessly. Whitening strips typically have a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide (about 10%).

Being able to choose the duration of the strips on your teeth and the frequency allows you the flexibility to brighten your smile at your pace! Whitening strips can be a great whitening tool for people with sensitive teeth, who want a bright smile without the pain.

Pros

Cons

Simple

Causes blotches if left too long

Effective

Many choices on the market

Inexpensive

Can be pain free

Noticeable results


Whitening Toothpastes

Arguably the most convenient whitening method, whitening toothpastes take longer to show results, but don’t change any part of your daily routine.

Whitening ingredients in toothpastes varies from brand to brand. Some toothpastes use peroxide and other bleaching solutions mentioned above. Others use abrasive whiteners like activated charcoal.

Activated charcoal is a fine grain powder oxidized from heating wood, coconut shells, and other natural substances. When in a toothpaste, it may help remove surface stains but because charcoal is mildly abrasive, it can absorb surface stains. 

The most effective whitening solutions get stains both on the surface of the tooth and the stains underneath. 

Most whitening toothpastes don’t contain a bleaching agent, but they may have peroxides - so the best your teeth will do is get about one shade brighter.

Pros

Cons

Easy to use

Ineffective

Widely available

Less whitening vs. chemical

Inexpensive

Useful for maintenance only


Other Whitening solutions

From whitening mouth rinses, whitening dental floss, coconut oil, and even chewing gums, there are tons of other products that claim to whiten teeth. These products, like the toothpaste, usually have minimal whitening capabilities outside of maintenance  

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