Virtually all teeth whitening systems make use of a type of peroxide, typically hydrogen peroxide. It is an effective ingredient at whitening the teeth, yet is very safe and leaves the enamel unharmed. The two main categories of teeth whitening systems include those done by a dentist, and those done at home. There are numerous different at-home whitening system options, however.
The main difference in the teeth whitening systems used at home or at the dentist is the percentage of peroxide. Treatments from the dentist will have a higher percentage of peroxide, and may be left on the teeth for one to two hours per session. Teeth whitening systems for use at home will have a lower percentage of peroxide, and are typically only left on the teeth for approximately 30 minutes per session. It may only take one treatment from a dentist to whiten teeth to their desired shade, but most at-home whitening systems take longer.
Teeth whitening systems designed for use at home are intended to be easy and convenient. Usually, the system is designed to be used every day for a week or two, one or two times per day. Common types of teeth whitening use sticky strips or tooth trays to keep the whitening gel on the teeth. For instance, the sticky strips will already have the whitening gel applied, and they are simply stuck on to the teeth for 30 minutes at a time. The strips may either dissolve or need to be removed.
Whitening trays may need to be filled with the whitening gel, and then simply placed over the teeth. Other teeth whitening systems use a gel that must be painted on to the teeth, such as in the morning and the evening. Nothing keeps the gel on the teeth, which can make this method slightly less effective than the ones mentioned above. Finally, some teeth whitening systems combine a whitening mouthwash with a whitening toothpaste.
Though a mouthwash and toothpaste may not be able to get teeth as white as other whitening treatments, they can be effective at lightening some stains as well as maintaining newly whitened teeth. All teeth whitening treatments can cause temporary tooth sensitivity. People who have recently whitened their teeth should avoid drinking staining liquids such as red wine, coffee, and tea, and should drink dark liquids through a straw as much as possible. Teeth should also be brushed after each meal, and flossed at least once a day to stay their whitest.