In-Office vs. At Home Teeth Whitening

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Wanting a brighter smile? A smile is often the first thing people notice when they see you, so why not make it dazzle! Of course, practicing good oral hygiene habits including daily brushing and flossing are necessary to keep your pearly-whites healthy. If you’re unsatisfied with the color of your teeth, teeth whitening can be a great option.

A variety of factors can cause our teeth to discolor overtime, often leaving the teeth with a yellow hue. Certain foods and beverages, including curry, berries, coffee, tea, and red wine for instance are common offenders that can cause your teeth to stain. These tasty items contain chemicals called chromogens, which can make it easier for the outer layer of your teeth (dental enamel) to become discolored. On the other hand, individuals who use tobacco often are plagued by teeth staining side effects. The components tar and nicotine cause your teeth to turn yellow overtime. One thing we all definitely cannot control is getting older, which can also contribute to the yellowing of the teeth. Teeth are composed of several layers; the outer layer represents dental enamel, the layer beneath enamel is referred to as dentin, and the innermost layer is called the pulp. As the outer dental enamel wears naturally with time as we age, the dentin becomes more visible which has a yellow tint. In addition, accidents that impact your teeth, such as falling or being hit in the mouth can result in teeth changing color. Certain medications have also been found to have teeth staining side effects, including some antipsychotics, and high blood pressure and allergy medications. Even exposure to antibiotics such as tetracycline at a young age can lead to teeth discoloration.

Your dental professional can help you decide if you are a good candidate for teeth whitening and explain all of the available whitening options, as some types of discoloration cannot be fixed through whitening products. In addition, whitening will not be able to change the color of any existing dental crowns or other dental prostheses in your mouth like dental implants.

Teeth whitening is easy and effective. Most whitening brands are composed of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to help bleach the teeth. The different ways to whiten your teeth include in-office or at-home teeth whitening options:

At-Home Whitening Toothpastes:
There are many toothpastes marketed to help remove surface stains. Be sure before purchasing whitening toothpastes to see if the brand has the ADA Seal of Acceptance for stain removal. This means that the product has been approved as safe and effective by the American Dental Association (ADA). However, these brands often do not contain any bleaching ingredients, and only instead help to remove superficial stains.

Over-the-Counter Whitening:
As you’re shopping you may also see a lot of products advertised to whiten teeth such as whitening strips or rinses. These are often marketed at affordable prices. You should also look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance on these products. Typically, the concentration of bleaching ingredients is often not as high as used by dental professionals performing in-office teeth whitening.

In-Office Teeth Whitening:

Some dental offices offer in-office whitening services, such as Zoom whitening, which uses a whitening gel and light to brighten the teeth. In-office whitening can be fast and often only requires one visit. Your dentist will apply bleach to your teeth while also placing a protective material on your gums. Dental professionals will provide you with a stronger bleaching solution than can be found in at-home whitening products, as they are distributed under their supervision. However, in-office teeth whitening is often the most expensive whitening option.

At-Home Whitening from Your Dentist:
Some dental offices offer whitening kits that can be applied at home using a custom tray made by your dentist. It is important to follow the instructions given by your dentist for proper wear time and product distribution within the tray. These at-home kits are often completed after a few days to a few weeks.

It is important to note that caution should be used with any at-home whitening products, as side effects such as irritated gums can occur. In addition, after any teeth whitening is done, some individuals may experience tooth sensitivity. Often, the sensitivity is only temporary, however if it persists your dental professional may recommend stopping or limiting the frequency of application of whitening products. Be sure to communicate with your dentist and follow their recommendations to help ensure the health of your teeth.