What are some tooth whitening options?

A variety of over-the-counter tooth whiteners are available. These include trays, gels, strips, toothpastes, flosses, and mouthwashes. Your teeth can also be whitened professionally by your dentist. However, professional tooth-whitening treatments are often more expensive than over-the-counter treatments. Before using these or any other whitening treatment, talk to your doctor or dentist about the risks associated with tooth whiteners.

If your pearly whites aren't white enough, you have a variety of tooth whitening options. Here are a few:

  • whitening toothpastes
  • whitening gels
  • whitening strips
  • whitening trays or bleaching systems sold by a dentist
  • professional bleaching at the dentist

Professional bleaching done by your dentist involves the most powerful bleaching agents to remove stains and whiten your teeth. Most do-it-yourself products use some form of bleaching agent applied to your teeth with a brush, mouth guard, of strip. You can also try home remedies such as baking soda, lemon and peroxide. Talk to your dentist about tooth whitening options.

Option #1 -- try the OTC bleaching agents -- strips or trays -- see how you react to them -- see if you become sensitive, or achieve the desired whitening.

Option#2 -- Take-home trays made custom for you by your dentist -- depending on your situation (are you sensitive or not?) we can prescribe a specific strength gel, and advise the amount of time you need to bleach. We will also monitor your shade change and side effects if any.

Option#3 -- Zoom or other same-day in office bleaching. This option is for when you are in a big hurry and can't wait the 2 weeks for bleaching trays. You will be in the office start to finish for about 2 hrs. A protective covering is placed on the gum tissue to protect it from the strong bleaching agent (a hydrogen peroxide solution), and a light is placed over your teeth for a timed whitening period. You will have sunscreen placed on your lips/face as well as protective eyewear. Prior to this, we will have given you a strong Fluoride toothpaste to use to prevent post-op sensitivity. Our patients are also supplied with custom bleaching trays so they can touch up 1x a year, as they need to. 
There are several ways to whiten your smile. You should discuss your tooth whitening options with your dentist. He or she can tell you whether whitening procedures would be effective for you. If you are a candidate for whitening, some options are:
  • In-office bleaching. This procedure is called chairside bleaching and usually requires only one office visit. The dentist will apply either a protective gel to your gums or a rubber shield to protect the oral soft tissues. A bleaching agent is then applied to the teeth, and a special light may be used. Lasers have been used during tooth whitening procedures to enhance the action of the whitening agent.
  • At-home bleaching. Peroxide-containing whiteners actually bleach the tooth enamel. They typically come in a gel and are placed in a mouthguard. Usage regimens vary. There are potential side effects, such as increased sensitivity or gum irritation. Speak with your dentist if you have any concerns.
  • Whitening toothpastes. All toothpastes help remove surface stain through the action of mild abrasives. "Whitening" toothpastes in the ADA Seal of Acceptance program have special chemical or polishing agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, these ADA Accepted products do not change the color of teeth because they can only remove stains on the surface.
Remember when selecting a whitener or any dental product, be sure to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance -- your assurance that they have met ADA standards of safety and effectiveness.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.