For many dental patients, the primary goal, beyond healthy teeth, is to have a smile worth showing off. And for most Americans, that means a need for teeth whitening products to correct the surface staining that comes from eating and drinking habits, among other factors that stain our teeth. Tobacco use, drinking a lot of tea or coffee, dark-colored sodas and a love for acidic foods all contribute to the gradual yellowing, darkening or staining of your teeth. It’s also normal for everyone’s teeth to become less white with age.
Thankfully, there are many options for patients to consider, including both at-home and professional whitening services.
Why Whiter Teeth?
One of the first things most people notice about us is our smile, be it the first time we meet someone, or just through typical interactions. Having whiter teeth helps improve self-confidence, gives a better first impression, and can even have an influence on your career and your social life. People who are happy with their smile feel more confident and smile more often!
If you are to believe all of the advertising you run across, whitening your teeth at home is not only easy, but it’s cost-effective with great results. But few things are ever as simple as they are advertised to be, especially when it comes to do-it-yourself requirements.
When it comes to DIY whitening kits, patients need to consider the potential risks and negative outcomes of using such products. These products come in a very wide variety of options including strips, gels, bleaches, and light-up tools that are designed to help lighten the stains on your teeth. While these products can result in whiter teeth, and are usually less expensive than professional whitening, they may not actually work all that well for many patients.
These products are advertised as being effective for everyone and capable of whitening teeth over a time span ranging from weeks to months. Typically, they require consumers to wear strips or trays every day for a specific amount of time. Some, like various strips, are expected to be worn for just a few minutes every day. Others, like some tray products, require the consumer to use them for a few hours daily.
The downside to these products is that they are usually far more complicated than indicated, and many of them, according to the American Dental Association, can cause an increase in tooth sensitivity and gum pain. That’s because in order to make these products whiten most people’s teeth, the concentration of bleaching agents is fairly high. Gums can also become irritated due to unsupervised excess use of at-home kits. Research has also shown that use of kits with lights is no more effective than systems that don’t use lights and can also temporarily dehydrate teeth, causing more sensitivity.
Additionally, negative results like “spotty” or “patchy” teeth can occur as a result of using at-home trays and strips. Because they are not custom-fitted to your individual mouth and bite, they often don’t match up completely with the surfaces of your teeth.
Many patients prefer to work with a cosmetic dentist instead in order to ensure the best results. Professionally-supervised whitening comes in many options. Some cosmetic dentists perform whitening in a single appointment at the office. Others create custom whitening trays which are custom-shaped to the patient’s teeth by taking impressions in order to craft trays that exactly match the shape of your teeth. This allows the outcome to be more uniform in whitening than a DIY kit. Plus, negative effects like sensitivity developing in your teeth or gums is generally not a problem thanks to the one-on-one interaction between a dentist and patient, and the custom treatment created for each individual. If you have more sensitive teeth, your dentist can adjust the treatment and the level of whitening agent used to be gentler or take a longer time, to avoid such side effects. Proper use of desensitizing agents can greatly help.
Those custom treatments usually find a patient using a bleaching agent in their custom-fit trays which over the course of days or weeks, or sometimes longer, will brighten and whiten teeth. The agent will remove stains from tooth enamel without interacting with existing dental work or impacting tooth structure. Many patients have reported seeing significant brightening from day-to-day use.
Dr. McCormick is Here to Answer Your Questions
Even if you feel it’s best to use an at-home whitening treatment, it is important to speak with your dentist about your needs and expected outcomes. Some dental patients are not good candidates for whitening of any kind, and may experience significant issues as a result of trying unsupervised whitening products at home.
Dr. McCormick is familiar with many of the whitening products available today and can help you make an informed decision as well as discuss the proper use of over-the-counter products. This is especially important if you have ongoing dental work or conditions like gum disease, that may affect whitening. Dr. McCormick can help you avoid negative long-term results for your teeth and advise you on the best options available. Contact our office to schedule a teeth whitening consultation today.