Many teeth whitening systems are available, including whitening toothpastes, over-the counter gels, strips and trays, and whitening systems obtained from or performed by a dentist. Teeth whitening is ideal for people who have healthy teeth and gums. Individuals with tooth decay or gum disease should consult their dentist prior to whitening.
Whitening rinses and toothpastes typically provide only minimal results. Whitening strips, tray systems, and in-the-dental-office whitening have the most impact. Teeth with yellow tones respond best to whitening. Teeth with a grayish cast or dark banding are hard to whiten.
Common Whitening Systems
Most toothpastes help remove surface stains because they contain mild abrasives. Some whitening toothpastes contain gentle polishing or chemical agents that provide additional stain removal. Whitening toothpastes can lighten your teeth color by about a shade (a barely discernable amount). In contrast, light-activated whitening in the dental office can lighten teeth about 7 shades or so (less if you have whitened in the past).
Tray-Based Tooth Whitening Products
Tray based tooth whitening systems, purchased either over-the-counter or from your dentist, involve filling a mouth guard-like tray with a whitening solution and then placing this over the teeth for 30 minutes or overnight(depending on the product). Trays work extremely well and have a big advantage over strips—they whiten all the teeth(not just the teeth the whitening strip is touching).
In-office whitening systems provide the quickest and most effective way to lighten teeth and are extremely effective. In a little over an hour, teeth can whiten about 7 shades in color. However, this immediate gratification comes at a cost, since in-office whitening is more expensive than over-the-counter products.
With these in-office systems, a protective film is first applied over the gums to protect them. Whitening agent is then painted on the teeth for (typically) three 20 minute treatments. From beginning to end, the in-office treatment takes about an hour and a half.
Avoiding Teeth Sensitivity during Whitening
Teeth can become sensitive during any type of whitening process. To avoid or dramatically lessen the potential for sensitivity, use a prescription fluoride toothpaste for two weeks before you start whitening. These special toothpastes are available from your dentist. One of the best is sold under the brand name Fluoridex. Prevident is another common brand.