Teeth whitening is a good option for people who have stains and discolorations on their teeth. The teeth play an important role in the way you look. If you don’t have beautiful teeth, it can affect your smile and also your overall personality. Many people with stained and discolored teeth have problems socializing with others. It affects their personality adversely.
A number of teeth whitening products are available today. Teeth whitening products come in the form of toothpastes, gels, strips, trays and mouthwashes. Teeth whitening procedures are also routinely performed in dental clinics. In comparison to products that are designed to be used directly by the end-user, teeth whitening procedures conducted in the dental clinic provide better results. However, they are more expensive.
If you have a healthy, unrestored teeth and gums, you are a good candidate for teeth whitening procedures. Teeth whitening products should not be used if you have dental fillings or certain dental problems. These products work best if your teeth have yellow tones. However, it should be noted that dental whitening may not be suitable for everybody.
Teeth whitening products
As mentioned before, a number of different types of tooth whitening products are available in the market today. These include the following.
Teeth whitening toothpastes
Normal toothpastes available in the market can remove stains and discolorations to some extent. They contain cleansing agents and abrasives which help in removing surface stains and mild discolorations. However, teeth whitening toothpastes contain additional polishing or chemical agents which make them more effective. Generally, teeth whitening toothpastes do not contain bleaching agents and therefore cannot remove stains located deep in the layers of the teeth. They are effective only against surface stains and discolorations. On the other hand, professional teeth whitening products contain bleaching agents such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide that act against stains present deep in the teeth. Teeth whitening toothpastes can lighten the teeth by only one shade. On the other hand, professional teeth whitening products can make your teeth lighter by 3 to 8 shades.
Teeth whitening gels and strips
Whitening gels are meant to be applied directly to the teeth by using a brush. They contain peroxide-based bleaching agents. Teeth whitening gels provide visible results within a few days. Usually, the results will last for three months. It is important to follow the directions provided on the product very carefully.
Teeth whitening strips are very thin and transparent. They have to be placed on the teeth as per the directions provided on the product packaging. They also contain peroxide-based bleaching agents. They provide results very similar to teeth whitening gels.
Teeth whitening mouthwashes
Teeth whitening mouthwashes and rinses are relatively new products. Just like normal mouthwashes, they prevent bad breath and reduce the risk of dental and gum diseases. Additionally, they contain hydrogen peroxide for whitening the teeth. It may take up to 12 weeks for you to see results. Teeth whitening mouthwashes are very easy to use. All that you have to do is swish the mouthwash for a few minutes and spit it out. Generally, teeth whitening mouthwashes are less effective than other teeth whitening products because the whitening agents come into contact with the teeth for only short period of time.
Tray-based teeth whitening systems
Tray-based teeth whitening systems come with a tray which contains the peroxide-based bleaching agent. The tray has to be worn every day during the night for a few weeks. How long it is to be worn depends on the extent of discolouration and desired level of whitening.
In-office teeth whitening
In-office teeth whitening provides the best results. In this procedure, the whitening agent is directly applied to the teeth. Heat or laser light may also be used to activate the whitening agent. Positive results can be seen in a single sitting lasting 30 to 60 minutes. However, more than one sitting may be required depending on the amount of discolouration and level of whitening desired. In-office teeth whitening is relatively expensive.
Teeth whitening products and their safety
Teeth whitening products available from dentists’ offices usually have American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. The Seal of Acceptance indicates that the teeth whitening products meet the guidelines of ADA. Presently, only dentist dispensed home use teeth whitening products containing 10% carbamide peroxide and office applied products containing 35% hydrogen peroxide have the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
Generally, teeth whitening products that are available over-the-counter do not have ADA’s Seal of Acceptance. This is because the ADA believes that professional consultation is necessary for safe and effective use of teeth whitening products. Further, teeth whitening products using lasers are also not on the ADA’s list of approved products. Many teeth whitening toothpastes that are available in drugstores have the approval of ADA.
It should be noted that not all manufacturers of teeth whitening products seek the approval of ADA. Obtaining the ADA’s seal of approval is not mandatory by law and requires time and financial resources on the part of the manufacturer. Therefore, just because a product doesn’t have ADA’s seal of approval doesn’t mean that the product is inferior or ineffective. Products sold in other countries may or may not have the approval of competent authorities of those countries.
Teeth whitening products are not classified as drugs and therefore the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate them.
Over-the-Counter Teeth Whitening Kits
There are several different types of teeth whitening kits that are available over the counter. Needless to say, these products differ both in terms of price and also in terms of effectiveness. It is best to select teeth whitening kit which allows customisation of the mouthpiece. These are more convenient and effective than other products which come with a standard mouthpiece.
Before buying any product always read the reviews. You can read online reviews or ask your dentist for his opinion to know whether the product you’re buying is worth it.
Should you whiten your teeth?
Teeth whitening products may not be suitable for everyone. Teeth whitening will be less effective in the following cases:
Children below the age of 16: Teeth whitening is not recommended for children who are below the age of 16. This is because the pulp chamber and nerve of the tooth is enlarged until this age. Teeth whitening can lead to irritation of the pulp and make it sensitive.
Pregnant women: Teeth whitening is not recommended for pregnant and lactating mothers.
People with sensitive teeth and allergies: If you have sensitive teeth and allergies, you should contact your dentist before using any teeth whitening product. If you have allergy to peroxide, you should not use any teeth whitening product.
Gum disease and exposed roots: If you have gum disease or exposed roots, teeth whitening is not advisable. Before undergoing whitening procedure, dental cavities should be treated and filled. This is because the whitening agent will penetrate the dental cavity and affect the inner areas of the tooth leading to sensitivity. If you have restorations, you should be very careful while using dental whitening products. This is because it can result in uneven whitening. Any whitening procedure should be performed before placing restorations. If you have any of these conditions, you should consult a dentist to know what is the best option for you.
Certain kinds of staining: Greyish and purple stains do not respond well to teeth whitening. Likewise, blue-grey stains caused by tetracycline are very difficult to whiten. It may take as long as six months and multiple sessions to successfully lighten them. On the other hand, yellow teeth respond well to bleaching. Brown colored stains respond relatively less to bleaching but can be removed. If the stains are too dark and do not respond well to whitening treatment, other options such as veneers or crowns may be better alternatives.
Unrealistic expectations: Teeth whitening products may not always provide the results you desire. There are many factors that come into play in deciding the colour of your teeth. If you are a smoker, your results will be limited unless you quit smoking. Some deep stains may persist even after multiple bleaching sessions.
Risks of teeth whitening
Teeth whitening products are relatively safe. Serious problems occur rarely. However, side effects such as tooth sensitivity and irritation may occur. Tooth sensitivity is usually observed in the early stages of the treatment. Irritation is often caused by an ill-fitting mouthpiece. Sensitivity and irritation are temporary and go away within a few days of completing the treatment.
Sensitivity can be reduced by:
- Wearing the tray for shorter periods of time
- Allowing the teeth to adjust by taking a break of 2-3 days in between sessions
- Using products containing higher amounts of fluoride
- Using a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth