Everyone wants a white, sparkling smile, and many of us are willing to pay to get it. But, are teeth whitening kits really safe? Which are the most effective for the price? First, let’s explore why we need to whiten our teeth at all….
Why Do Teeth Change Color?
Teeth have natural color differences at birth – this is one of the differences that give us such wonderful diversity! If your teeth have natural color hints, those will not be changed by bleaching, no matter how much or how strong the product you use.
Over time, teeth start to change color, due to many factors including:
· Age – everyone’s teeth naturally darken over time
· Eating Habits – if you continually eat foods with strong colors or drink coffee and tea on a regular basis, it can stain your teeth
· Smoking Habits – habitual smoking stains teeth
· Grinding – grinding your teeth can cause them to get microscopic cracks, which can open up the tooth to staining
· Trauma – any kind of trauma to the tooth can cause it to crack or split, exposing the dentin inside to staining
What Can Be Done About It?
Normal toothpastes have mild abrasives that clean teeth, and along with regular visits to your dentist, can help prevent and minimize staining. If you want to take it a step further, you have several whitening options.
1. Whitening Toothpaste: This is the least expensive and easiest method of teeth whitening. A whitening toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance contains special chemical or polishing agents that can provide additional stain-fighting effectiveness. This is the least dramatic whitening method and must be used over time to see results.
2. Whitening Kits *: Many over-the-counter teeth whitening kits are available today. These consist of whitening gel that is applied using one-size-fits-all trays or whitening strips. These typically take from 30 minutes to 1 hour, 3x per week. This is a moderately inexpensive option, usually in the $50 price range, and produces more dramatic results than whitening toothpaste but is not as effective as bleaching from your dentist.
3. Take-Home Bleaching Kits: Many dentists, including myself, offer take-home whitening trays. The trays are custom-made for your mouth so they fit the teeth snugly, and the whitening gel stays exactly where it should for maximum effectiveness. These kits contain a bleaching solution of carbamide peroxide, which comes in three concentrations (10%, 16%, 22%). Some of these products are used twice a day for 2 weeks, others should be used overnight for 1-2 weeks. These treatments often cost around $300 -$400 and are extremely effective.
4. In-Office Bleaching: In-office bleaching, also called ‘chairside’ bleaching is a procedure only your dentist can offer. I have chosen not to offer this service in my office – after trying it several times, I concluded that the cost is too high and the results are not as good as take-home bleaching kits. I just don’t feel comfortable charging my patients more for a service that I have found to be less effective over time.
* Currently, only the dentist-provided take-home bleaching kits (see below) carry the ADA Seal of Approval.
Is It Safe?
All bleaching methods approved by the ADA are completely safe for your teeth and gums. Some people experience tooth sensitivity while they are undergoing whitening treatments, but most go back to normal once whitening treatments are finished. The bleaching gels do not harm or weaken the teeth.
Dr. Marshall Fields is a cosmetic and family dentist located near Irmo in Columbia, SC. He has been in practice over 20 years, and he is committed to giving his patients the most advanced care available and the most comfortable experience possible. For more information about Dr. Fields, visit www.drmarshallfields.com