Teeth whitening is a popular dental service — and for good reason. It’s one of the most affordable cosmetic dentistry options available, and it is a great way to quickly improve the look of your smile. As we get a new year underway, you might be thinking about giving your smile a boost with teeth whitening. If you are like most people, you might be wondering if you should just skip the dentist’s office and pick up teeth whitening gel at your local pharmacy. Here’s what you should know about over-the-counter teeth whitening gels versus professional teeth whitening.
What Is Teeth Whitening Gel?
The active ingredient in most whitening gels is hydrogen peroxide which removes stains on the surface of the teeth. Most over-the-counter whitening products use a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide than what you’ll get at the dentist.
How Does Teeth Whitening Gel Work?
Hydrogen peroxide contains volatile oxygen molecules. When these oxygen molecules come into contact with the stains on the tooth surface, they react by breaking apart the chemical bonds that hold the stains onto your tooth enamel — essentially “bleaching” them away.
How Effective Are Other Over-the-Counter Teeth Whitening Kits?
The whitening products you purchase over the counter contain a weaker concentration of the whitening agent. So, they are not as effective as teeth whitening at your dentist.
Teeth Whitening Toothpaste and Rinses
Whitening products such as whitening toothpastes and dental rinses can help to eliminate surface stains on your teeth. Toothbrushes, when used with an effective whitening toothpaste, can remove stubborn stains and any other coatings on the teeth. Rinses, however, lack the direct friction that toothbrushes have on your teeth so they are not noticeably effective.
Teeth Whitening Strips
According to the American Dental Association, teeth whitening products, including strips, can help remove stains on teeth. Research also shows that teeth whitening strips are a more effective agent than other over-the-counter whitening agents such as whitening toothpaste. Again, the at-home whitening strips contain lower concentrations of whitening ingredients than what you can get at the dentist. So, people may not get the results they want.
Teeth Whitening Chewing Gum
Whitening gums will not make your teeth whiter, but they can help reduce the formation of certain types of dark stains. This is the same type of dark stain that your dentist can just scratch off with a dental instrument.
Are There Any Risks Associated With Teeth Whitening Gels?
Using store-bought whitening products can be tricky. Many people who use over-the-counter teeth whitening products run into trouble in at least one of the following areas.
Many people report increased tooth sensitivity after using over-the-counter whitening products. This usually occurs because the product hasn’t been used correctly, or it was left on the teeth for longer than recommended. People who use whitening strips that are left on the teeth for hours rather than minutes often experience tooth sensitivity.
People who use the products frequently also report increased sensitivity. This is because the dentin layer of your teeth is exposed during the whitening process.
Another side effect of whitening kits is gum irritation. This happens because the product is not used properly. This is related to the fact that whitening strips or mouth trays are not custom-made to fit your mouth precisely. This makes it easy for the whitening solution to wind up on your gums. Some people even feel like the product is burning their gums. Continued exposure can cause bleeding or severe pain.
Most people who use over-the-counter teeth whitening gel are disappointed with lackluster results. Often there is no noticeable difference in the whiteness of your teeth. Uneven whitening is another possibility. So, if you do see results, it may not be present on all of your teeth. Unfortunately, none of these products come with a guarantee.
Enamel erosion is another common side effect of over-the-counter tooth whitening products. Tooth enamel is the top layer of the tooth that protects against cavities and bacteria. It helps protect your teeth from developing cavities and tooth decay. Misuse or overuse of a whitening product increases the risk of damaging your enamel.
Benefits of Professional Teeth Whitening Treatments
Do-it-yourself teeth whitening gel can take several weeks, and there is no guarantee that you will be happy with the results. When you go to the dentist for teeth whitening, the process can take as little as 45 minutes in the dental chair for consistent results that will make you love your smile.
If you’d rather whiten your teeth in the privacy of your own home, on your own schedule, your dentist can create custom whitening trays and provide you with professional quality whitening gel.
If you have stains that go deep into the enamel such as fluorosis or tetracycline stains, over-the-counter whitening products will not work. These kinds of stains can only be removed with powerful teeth whitening treatments available through your dentist.
There is another reason to get your teeth whitened at the dentist — protection. He or she will protect both your teeth and your gums from sensitivity.
Give the new year a great start by taking care of your oral health. Whether you want to learn more about teeth whitening or if you are due for a dental examination or teeth cleaning, schedule an appointment at West Coast Dental today.
WebMD — Teeth Whitening
American Dental Association — Whitening
Mouth Healthy — Whitening: 5 Things to Know About Getting a Brighter Smile
ResearchGate — (PDF) Over-the-Counter Tooth Whitening Agents: A Review of Literature (researchgate.net)National Library of Medicine — Treatment of endemic fluorosis and tetracycline staining with macroabrasion and nightguard vital bleaching: a case report