Teeth whitening is ideal for patients who have healthy, unrestored teeth (no fillings) and healthy gums who would like a brighter smile. Patients with yellow tones to their teeth respond best. But this cosmetic procedure is not recommended for everyone.
There are three general approaches:
- Over-the-counter whitening strips
- Over-the-counter whitening gels
- Over-the-counter tray-based bleaching systems (purchased at your local drug store, over the Internet, by mail)
- Dentist supervised tray-based whitening system (whitening supplies are purchased through your dentist's office)
In-office bleaching, also called chairside bleaching or power bleaching
Whitening Toothpastes: All toothpastes help remove surface stains through the action of mild abrasives. Some whitening toothpastes contain gentle polishing or chemical agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Whitening toothpastes can help remove surface stains only and do not contain bleach; over-the-counter and professional whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide (a bleaching substance) that helps remove stains on the tooth surface as well as stains deep in the tooth. None of the home use whitening toothpastes can come even close to producing the bleaching effect you get from your dentist's office. Whitening toothpastes can lighten your tooth's color by about one shade. In contrast, light-activated whitening conducted in your dentist's office can make your teeth three to eight shades lighter.
Whitening gels are clear, peroxide-based gels applied with a small brush directly to the surface of your teeth. Instructions generally call for twice a day application for 14 days. Initial results are seen in a few days and final results are sustained for about 4 months. The retail cost for this product is about $15 for a 14-day treatment.
Whitening strips are very thin, virtually invisible strips that are coated with a peroxide-based whitening gel. The strips are applied twice daily for 30 minutes for 14 days. Initial results are seen in a few days and final results are sustained for about 4 months. The retail cost for this product ranges from $10 to $55 for a 14-day treatment.
Both of these products contain peroxide in a concentration that is much lower than the peroxide-based products that are used in your dentist's office. Although some teeth lightening will be achieved, the degree of whitening is much lower than results achieved with in-office or dentist-supervised whitening systems. Additionally, use of over the counter products do not benefit from the close supervision of your dentist ? to determine what whitening process may be best for you, to check on the progress of the teeth whitening process and look for signs of gum irritation. On the positive, the over-the-counter gels and strips are considerably less expense (ranging from $10 to about $55) than the top-of-the line in-office whitening procedures, which can cost nearly $800.