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Teeth whitening products, sometimes referrd to as teeth bleaching products too, have become the most popular way for dentists to help their patients obtain whiter smiles in the last caouple of years.

This type of teeth bleaching system is usually based on plastic bleaching tray filled with a whitening gel. The bleaching tray is worn a few hours per day, for some weeks, while the effects of the teeth whitening process take place. This is not cheap at all. After 3-4 visits to the dentist, you teeth would be officially declared whiter, and you would be sent home with a $500 - $1,000 bill to pay.

There are many teeth whitening systems available on the market, including whitening toothpastes, over-the counter gels, strips and trays, and whitening agents obtained from a dentist. Many people get confused because they aren’t sure whether these products are really working or they present nothing more than a scam!

Methods of teeth whitening

There are essentially two different methods to whiten the teeth:

  • Dental (In-office) Whitening and
  • Home Treatment

Dental (In-office) Whitening

This procedure is rather simple. First, dentist usually makes 'molds' of patient’s teeth, and sends them off to a lab. In 5-10 days they receive back their custom fitted mouthpiece. Then a patient has to sit in the dental chair for 1-2 hours, with these plastic molds filled with some whitening substance at a very low concentration pressed against their teeth and gums.

Basic tooth whitening involves two different types of whitening techniques:

  • peroxide-based whitening and
  • non-peroxide based surface stain removal.

Peroxide-based whitening products work deep within the tooth to remove discoloration resulting from years of accumulated stain and aging. In addition, peroxide based products will slightly lighten hard-to-reach surface stains. The mechanism is simple - when the peroxide agent contacts the teeth it breaks down and the resulting oxidation dissolves internal and surface stains and makes the teeth appear whiter and brighter.

The most popular dental whitening procedure is known as Laser Bleaching. It is based on application of a concentrated peroxide gel on patient’s teeth. Then the patient sits in a dental chair with mouth wide open for about an hour while a special light, usually argon, is shined onto the paste producing a chemical reaction with the peroxide to complete the bleaching process in as short a time as possible. It is a proven that this procedure really works. But there are some downsides about this procedure. First, the bill is about $500 - $1,000. Second the patient still needs to come back 6 months later for another whitening.

Home teeth whitening

Nowadays it's possible to achieve dental-office quality teeth whitening, in the comfort of your own home. The truth is that, up until a few years ago, teeth whitening was a very complex process, but now home teeth whitening is an option for most people.

There are several different types of home-teeth whitening processes available:

Brush-on whitening

Brush-on whitening is a great concept in principal. Patient should just brush on the formula, allow it to dry on teeth, and let it stay on teeth overnight. It’s really simple. Although, it can sometimes be effective, in reality, brush-on whitening has two main flaws:

  1. The first flaw is that, when you brush on the formula, there is a little chance that it will dry on your teeth, mostly because of saliva or from licking your teeth.
  2. The second flaw is the ingredients. In most teeth brush-on whitening products the main ingredient is alcohol and, it is known that alcohol is terrible for breath!

Also most of these brush-on whitening formulas contain glycerin which literally sucks the moisture out from the enamel of teeth and it's the primary cause in most cases of tooth sensitivity after whitening.

Strips you stick on your teeth

What's so good about these treatments? It is their simplicity - they're easy to apply and no preparation is necessary. These strips usually consist of an upper strip and a lower strip each pressed against the outer surface of teeth. The bad thing about them is that they are flat and that’s why they can't reach all the small and hidden sides of teeth, leaving small patches of discoloration!

What is worse, the whiter your teeth become, the more pronounced those dingy cracks seem!

Trays with bleaching gels

There is no doubt that these trays are the best combination of the most affordable and most efficient tooth whitening available. There are some important facts about these gels:

  • First, most of the bleaching gels available at your dentist are exactly the same.
  • Second, most of the bleaching gels available at stores are of very poor quality because they have very low concentrations of active ingredients.

The concentration of bleaching gel should be at least 21%, which means a whiter result in a shorter period of time. At-home tray teeth whitening can be a safe and effective way for a person to bleach their teeth, but it is important for everyone to realize that this means no direct supervision by a dental professional. This is the main flaw of this system! Because of this, anyone bleaching their teeth must be certain that the specific whitener they are using is safe, and that they know how to use this product in an appropriate manner. Failure to meet either one of these conditions could result in damage or harm to the teeth.

Important facts!

  • The only tooth whiteners that could be used at home and that have been able to earn the ADA's "Seal of Acceptance" are tray-based dentist-dispensed products. No over-the-counter products have earned this ADA's seal.
  • The active ingredient contained in all of tooth whiteners that have earned the ADA's seal, and the compound which has been evaluated in the vast majority of these products, is carbamide peroxide at a concentration of 10%.

Whitening Toothpastes

The fact is that all toothpastes help remove surface stains because they have mild abrasives, but some whitening toothpastes contain gentle polishing or chemical agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness. There are some over-the-counter and professional whitening products which contain hydrogen peroxide that helps remove stains on the tooth surface as well as stains deep in the tooth.

How Long Do the Whitening Effects Last?

It is important to remember that whitening is not permanent. People who expose their teeth to foods and beverages that cause staining may see the whiteness start to fade in as little as 1 month. Those who avoid foods and beverages that stain the teeth may be able to wait for a year or longer before another whitening treatment is needed.

The degree of whiteness will vary from individual to individual depending on the:

  • condition of the teeth,
  • nature of the stain,
  • the type of bleaching system used and
  • for how long the system has been used

Who should not practice teeth whitening?

Whitening is not recommended or will be less successful in the following circumstances:

  • Whitening is not recommended in children under the age of 16. This is because the pulp chamber, or nerve of the tooth, is enlarged until this age. Teeth whitening under this condition could irritate the pulp or cause it to become sensitive.
  • Teeth whitening is also not recommended in pregnant or lactating women.
  • Individuals with sensitive teeth and gums, receding gums and defective restorations should consult with their dentist prior to using a tooth whitening system.
  • Gum disease, worn enamel, cavities, and exposed roots.
  • Cavities need to be treated before undergoing any whitening procedure. This is because the whitening solutions penetrate into any existing decay and the inner areas of the tooth, which can cause sensitivity. 
  • Tooth-colored fillings and resin composite materials used in dental restorations do not whiten. 
  • Individuals who expect their teeth to be a new blinding white may be disappointed with the results. Smokers need to be aware that their results will be limited unless they refrain from continued smoking, particularly during the bleaching process. 
  • Yellowish teeth respond well to bleaching, brownish-colored teeth respond less well and grayish-hue or purple-stained teeth may not respond to bleaching at all.  

Tips for better teeth-whitening

  • Immediately before bleaching, brush your teeth with an oxygenating toothpaste combined with the finest natural polishing agents AND aloe vera to strengthen your gums & prevent any sensitivity.
  • Use form-fitting mouth trays that are fitted to your specific bite. Make sure they fit snugly around each tooth, and press firmly around the sides of your teeth and gums at all points.
  • Use a 21% concentrated bleaching gel based on carbamide peroxide that is formulated specifically to reduce the sensitivity to your teeth and gums. (In other words - No glycerin)
  • Immediately after bleaching, enhance the effect by using an oxygenating oral rinse. Make sure not to use a mouthwash with alcohol as this can actually chemically curtail the bleaching effect.

Risks Associated With Teeth Whitening

The two side effects that occur most often are:

  1. a temporary increase in tooth sensitivity
  2. mild irritation of the soft tissues of the mouth, particularly the gums

The good thing about all this is that both of these conditions usually are temporary and disappear within 1 to 3 days of stopping or completing the treatment.

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