We all like our teeth pearly white. Walk into the toothpaste aisle of any store and you'll see a row of products boasting "stain removal" and "extra whitening" in the form of toothpastes, mouth rinses and do-it-yourself whitening strips. So..does it work? What's the difference between this stuff and the stuff my dentist uses? Here are the answers to your most asked questions about whitening:
In Office Bleaching:
Three to four 15 minute treatments with hydrogen perioxide gel applied by your dentist which lighten your teeth 2-3 shades instantly within 1 hour. Additional bleaching sessions or take home trays may be recommended if teeth are heavily stained.
In our office we offer Venus White Max which have a 38% hydrogen perioxide gel. Our patients love the results with this high strength product and we highly recommend it for especially yellowing staining.
What about the ever so popular Zoom Bleaching that uses that bright light?
Although we have used them in the past, much research has been done on the effectiveness of the light. It has been shown that teeth whiten just as well with or without the light. The only difference is that immediately after light usage teeth may appear whiter because the light has dehydrated the teeth temporarily. Studies have shown that the teeth end up at the same shade once the teeth have rehydrated.
TRUTH: Bleaching with a light is only dehydrating your teeth and isn't whitening it.
ADVICE: This procedure will most likely result in a lot of sensitivity. See the end of this posting to see our recommendations to minimize the after effects. Be prepared to stay away from staining foods and drinks for the first week to ensure the whitening results are maintained and last.
Many claim to have "hydrogen peroxide" aka bleach that whiten your teeth while others may have some polishing abrasives that attempt to scrub the stains.
TRUTH: the hydrogen peroxide content is so minimal that it will cause no noticeable difference and any polishing from abrasives will only remove the very superficial stains on your outer enamel.
ADVICE: Use it if you like, but don't expect it to do much whitening for your smile.
Similar to the toothpastes, mouthwashes also may contain hydrogen peroxide as bleaching agents. If you have very minimal and superficial staining this may remove the slightest of color in your teeth.
TRUTH: Generally whitening works best the longer the whitening agent is in contact with your teeth. Using mouthwashes throughout the day, in between meals, for example is going to be more effective than using it just once every night before bed.
ADVICE: If there is a mouthwash we could recommend it would be Rembrandt Whitening Mouthrinse
We've used the product personally and seen it gradually whiten our teeth.
Why it's better: It contains Sodium Fluoride which helps strengthen your teeth while whitening. It also has proprietary hydrogen peroxide formula that claims to work for deep intrinsic staining and not just outer enamel stains.
These whitening strips have hydrogen peroxide in them and are placed on your teeth for 30min-60min at a time.
TRUTH: Over the counter (OTC) whitening strips such as Crest Whitening Strips generally carry 6% concentration of hydrogen peroxide. In office we have Crest Professionals Whitening Strips which can only be purchased from a dental office. They are for take home use and are 14% concentration. The OTC strips come in a 1-2 week pack whereas the professionals version comes in a 3 week pack. The professionals simply get you whiter faster and longer.
ADVICE: If you are always on the go or in a a time crunch or have a hard time remembering to use them, go for the Professional Whitening. It'll be slightly less hassle and more effective since it's a higher concentration. Otherwise, the OTC will work just as well but will take longer.
Professional Take Home Whitening with Trays
Custom trays are made to fit to your mouth. This is done by first taking impressions of your upper and lower teeth and then pouring them to make models. Once the models are set which may take 1-2 hours, we warm up a plastic tray material to sculpt and make your custom trays. These custom trays are then used along with take-home syringes of bleaching agent which are worn to either gradually whiten or touch up whiten your smile.
Bleaching agents come in two types - Carbamide Perioxide and Hydrogen Perioxide
What's the difference? Both are bleaching agents that will get you equally white.
Carbamide Perioxide takes a "low and slow" approach releasing about 50% of its whitening within the first 2 hours and then remains active for an additional 6 hours afterwards. Thus this is perfect for bleaching your teeth when you sleep. We prefer this method as you end up wearing it for a longer period of time without interruptions of daily life, allowing the whitening to work better.
Hydrogen Perioxide works quick and strong and releases most of the whitening chemicals within the first 30-60 minutes and then becomes inactive. For this reason many manufactures recommend using this twice a day for short 30 minute periods of time. Because of its sudden strength within the first hour this may lead to more sensitivity and isn't recommended for people who already have sensitive teeth.
TRUTH: Carbamide Perioxide and Hydrogen Perioxide have the same whitening end results. How fast and white you get really depends on everyone's individual natural tooth structure and how it absorbs the bleaching agent.
ADVICE: Although both are equally good, we like Carbamide Perioxide for its low and slow approach that can whiten your teeth several hours after usage. It also has been the most tested product for take home whitening and has proven itself to be the go to product for over 25 years.
Sensitivity After Bleaching
Bleaching will almost always result in sensitivity in your teeth. The best way to minimize the effects of this is to switch to a sensitive toothpaste brand such as Sensodyne 2 weeks prior to whitening. Also, taking Advil or Motrin the day of bleaching and the day after will help the entire process be more comfortable.