Tooth whitening has become a safe, efficient way for many people to brighten their smiles. Many alternatives exist, from over the counter products to professional treatment options. When choosing among these alternatives, consider effectiveness, method, cost, and any possible risks. Consult an oral health care professional for individual recommendations.
The least expensive tooth whitening option is an over the counter (OTC) daily use product, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste or chewing gum. These products mechanically remove surface stains, provide temporary results, and usually only offer an improvement of one or two shades. In general, these tooth whitening methods do not make a dramatic difference, but may be useful to maintain professionally-whitened teeth.
Other over the counter products, such as tooth whitening strips and paint-on products, use a low concentration of a peroxide-based whitener. Still relatively inexpensive, this category of products can reduce age or diet-related staining and provide up to two shades of whitening. So, if limited results are sufficient for you, this is an economical alternative.
Tooth whitening products offered over television and the Internet should be used with caution. Some of the products in this category contain acid-based agents along with peroxide. The acidic products can damage the teeth and soft tissues. Also, because the trays used for some of these products are not custom-fitted, some users may swallow the whitening product.
Professional tooth whitening is available in two forms: in-office and at-home treatments. The in-office procedures are the most costly of all methods of tooth whitening and may require more than one visit. Peroxide agents are applied to the teeth either directly or in trays, and some use a laser, or light source, to accelerate the whitening process. The big advantage of this method of tooth whitening is the immediate result. This method can improve the smile five shades or more, but can also cause some temporary sensitivity.
Professionally supervised and dispensed tooth whitening products are effective on several types of stains. With this method, a dentist creates customized whitening trays for the user. The user then applies a thick peroxide based gel in the trays for at-home use. The results are very effective, up to six shades of improvement, but are gradual. Because of the regulation of product ingredients, the custom fitted trays, and professional supervision, this method is safer than similar products advertised on TV and the Internet.
Keep in mind that all products will only whiten natural teeth. If you have dental work in the front part of your mouth, see your oral health care professional for specific advice.