Everybody loves a bright white smile, and there are a variety of products and procedures available to help you improve the look of yours.
Many people are satisfied with the sparkle they get from brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, flossing once a day, and regular cleanings at the dentist's office. However, if you decide you would like to go beyond regular care to make your smile look brighter, you should investigate all of your options.
Finding the Best Treatment for You
Schedule a visit with your dentist to learn whether whitening procedures would be effective for you. Whiteners do not correct all types of discoloration. For example, yellowish teeth will probably bleach well, brownish teeth may bleach less well, and grayish teeth may not bleach well at all. Likewise, whitening may not enhance your smile if you have had tooth-colored fillings or crowns. The whitener will not affect the color of these materials and they will stand out in your newly whitened smile. In these cases, you do have other options, such as porcelain veneers.
Tooth Whitening Treatments
- Professional teeth whitening with your doctor
- Whitening toothpaste
When selecting a whitener or any dental product, be sure to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance — your assurance that a product has met ADA standards of safety and effectiveness.
Professional Teeth Whitening
Professional teeth whitening by your doctor is your best choice when you need immediate whitening results. These products contain peroxide(s) which actually bleach the tooth enamel. Carbamide peroxide is the bleaching agent and comes in several different concentrations (10%, 16%, and 22%). Peroxide-containing whiteners typically come in a gel and are placed inside a bleaching tray. Usage regimens vary. Some products are used twice a day for 2 weeks, while others are intended for overnight use for 1-2 weeks. If you obtain the bleaching solution from your doctor's office, they can make a custom-fitted bleaching tray for you that will fit your teeth precisely.
The benefit of tooth whitening trays are that if you drink coffee and/or tea or eat foods which can stain the teeth over time, you can easily request more bleaching medium from your dentist to "touch up" your whitening from time to time, as needed.
Teeth whitening can have minor side-effects and you should speak with your doctor if these become bothersome. For example, teeth can become sensitive during the period when you are using the bleaching solution. In most cases, this sensitivity is temporary and should lessen once the treatment is finished. Some people also experience soft tissue irritation, either from a tray that doesn't fit properly or from solution that may come in contact with the tissues. If you have concerns about such side effects, you should discuss them with the doctor.
Currently, only dentist-dispensed, home-use, 10% carbamide peroxide tray-applied gels carry the American Dental Association Seal.
All toothpastes help remove surface stain from your teeth 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 alter the intrinsic color of teeth.