Over the past several years, the popularity of teeth whitening has grown significantly, particularly the over-the-counter treatments that have mushroomed in sales at many retail outlets. Manufacturers offer a variety of kits that contain a myriad of whitening products and claims that, in the process, have left potential consumers with a bewildering choice of products and techniques. Even worse, most of the information consumers receive is purposely designed to sell the product in-hand, not medically accurate information on what treatment really works the best.
Why Aren’t My Teeth White?
The most common causes of teeth enamel discoloration or stains are usually from coffee, tea, smoking, and large amounts of cola drinks. Aging can also cause discoloration, as can chemical damage to the teeth, medications, and even genetics. To assist those who are looking for a brighter smile, the marketplace is saturated with in-home teeth whitening systems that make use of various toothpastes, gels, strips and so-called trays or mouthpieces.
First of all, all toothpastes possess a mild abrasiveness that can lighten some surface stains. But, the so-called “whitening toothpastes” that claim to whiten your teeth because they contain peroxide have such a low concentration of the bleaching agent, and such brief contact with the surface of the teeth that it is a relatively worthless treatment for anyone seriously considering tooth whitening.
Probably the most important point to remember when searching for any teeth whiteners is that for all whitening systems the bleaching agent must be of sufficient strength to do the job. And that agent is carbamide peroxide. If a dental whitener doesn’t contain an acceptable level of carbamide peroxide it won’t give you satisfactory results. As a rule, whitening gels should contain from 10% to 22% carbamide peroxide. The most popular strength is 16% because full strength may cause unnecessary tooth and gum irritation.
At Home Treatments
One of the least expensive over-the-counter treatments is the brush-on whitening gels. For this treatment, a peroxide-based gel is applied directly to the teeth with a small brush. Generally, this is done twice a day for two minutes after which it is rinsed away. The treatment period could last for a week or more depending on the results. This treatment, when properly performed, can achieve only a small, relatively imperceptible one-shade color change. Although product claims are contradictory, this form of whitening is relatively disappointing and for that reason not considered a good way to go. Cost: $20 to $90
One other at-home treatment is the whitening strips. They are very thin strips coated with a peroxide-base whitening gel. Twice a day one must apply the strips to the teeth for about 30-minutes. Generally, this is continued for around 14 days. Again, the strength of the peroxide is the critical factor. There is a little discomfort in this treatment and it can achieve a one or two-shade difference that could last up to four months before it has to be repeated. Cost: $25 to $60.