Often, teeth are less than white due to staining over time. This can be caused by drinks such as wine, tea and coffee, as well as smoking. Most of these stains can be easily removed with a toothpaste for polishing and whitening. A dentist or dental hygienist can do this as part of a regularly scheduled dental cleaning.
For teeth discoloration that is not due to simple stains, whitening should penetrate the tooth surface to help with the color change. Many dental offices use some type of chemical called hydrogen peroxide to do this. A hydrogen peroxide-based product that many dentists prefer is Opalescence Boost. The main ingredient in Opalescence Boost is a gel that contains approximately 38% hydrogen peroxide.
This is what whitens and lightens teeth. A second chemical, potassium nitrate, is also applied to help strengthen tooth enamel, reduce sensitivity and protect against tooth decay. When mixed, the two chemicals take on a distinctive red color; this helps ensure that the gel is placed on the teeth where it should be and completely removed when ready. One of the best things about Opalescence Boost is that the procedure only requires one visit to complete (although very difficult stains or discolored teeth can take two or three sessions).
It's incredibly safe and effective when managed by a professional, of course. Lasers have been with us for decades, but only in recent years have dental researchers discovered safe and efficient ways to use lasers to whiten teeth. Lasers are used to heat and “activate” a hydrogen peroxide bleaching gel, which does the whitening work. Typically, this method of whitening teeth can brighten teeth six to 12 shades brighter.
Most people are familiar with hydrogen peroxide and might even have that familiar brown bottle in their medicine cabinet. Pharmacy teeth whiteners use hydrogen peroxide gels with a concentration of about 10-15%. Due to the lower concentration, it will take a few days or weeks to see whitening results. The actual whitening process involves the dentist applying a gel made of 15% to 35% hydrogen peroxide to the front teeth.
Hydrogen peroxide can penetrate the porous outer layer of teeth and break down stain compounds through a chemical reaction called oxidation. Depending on the whitening system being used, the application of the whitening gel may be followed by the application of a high-powered light that accelerates the whitening process. To achieve the best success in teeth whitening, you should always work with your dentist. Dentists call professional take-home whitening on personalized trays the “gold standard”.
By making the trays from a replica of your teeth, the custom fit keeps the whitening gel in the perfect position for optimal results. Custom trays will last for many years, allowing you to simply purchase whitening gel as needed for maintenance. The two main products used for teeth whitening are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. Unlike a whitening toothpaste that uses an abrasive ingredient to mechanically remove stains at the surface level, the oxygen molecules within these whitening agents weaken tooth stains at the molecular level.
Whitening is very popular, but teeth whitening methods vary a lot and there are a lot of scams out there. The most common side effects of teeth whitening include sensitive teeth and gum irritation, but these are temporary and should go away as soon as the whitening process stops. Once completed, the whitening procedure can achieve four to six shades of whitening after a single session. While over-the-counter whitening products tend to be less expensive than home or office approaches, there is often a time trade-off in the sense that over-the-counter products can take much longer than any of the other options to achieve similar levels of whitening.
While both at-home whitening and in-office whitening are effective under the supervision of your dentist, there are some important differences. The whitening agent is carbamide peroxide, which is the same ingredient used by dentists to whiten teeth. As long as you use an ADA-approved whitening product according to your specific instructions, you can assume that teeth whitening is safe. Some dentists may recommend maintaining a freshly whitened smile with a professional home whitening kit.
Gingival irritation can result from contact with peroxide-based gels when using whitening strips or any whitening gel-based product. While many people have heard of at-home teeth whitening kits, few know that many dentists also offer teeth whitening services. This causes teeth whitening results to take longer than teeth whiteners that use hydrogen peroxide with 10-25% concentrate. In-office teeth whitening systems use a heavy-duty whitening gel to produce a visible color change in about an hour.
Meanwhile, personalized take-home trays rank between professional in-office whitening and an over-the-counter bleach in terms of treatment time and cost.