If you dislike smiling for pictures or avoid looking in the mirror at your smile due to discolored teeth, you’re not alone. It’s common for stained teeth to make people feel overly self-conscious, while radiantly white teeth can do wonders for a person’s self-esteem.
The good news is that a wide array of teeth whitening solutions can restore your pearly whites. Many whitening formulas include similar active ingredients, but efficacy, treatment duration, and cost can vary greatly.
As such, it’s important to learn the basics to select the best option to meet your smile and budgetary needs.
Table of Contents
In-Office Teeth Whitening Options
In-office whitening provides a significant color change in a short period of time. This protocol involves the carefully controlled application of a relatively high concentration of peroxide gel directly on teeth.
Gums are protected with a protective gel or a rubber dam. Typically, the gel remains on teeth for several 15 to 20-minute intervals over a 45 to 60 minute session. Three of the most popular professional whitening brands are Zoom!® Teeth Whitening, KöR® Whitening, and Opalescence™.
- Zoom includes amorphous calcium phosphate, potassium nitrate, and fluoride that work together to help protect enamel during treatment, while whitening teeth and reducing tooth sensitivity. Blue LED light-accelerated technology speeds up the process.
- KöR is unique because the continuously refrigerated, high-potency gel prevents unstable chemicals from degenerating and losing potency, thereby effectively whitening teeth with less sensitivity.
- Opalescence Boost™ whitening gel contains potassium nitrate and fluoride for comfort and chemically activated whitening, without the need for LED technology.
Although in-office whitening can cost as much as $650 according to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry, these formulas are the strongest and provide the quickest and most dramatic whitening results.
At-Home Professional Teeth Whitening Kits
For at-home whitening, impressions are taken at your dentist’s office to create customized trays. The trays are shaped to whiten teeth evenly and limit whitening solution exposure on sensitive soft oral tissue. Instructions are provided to help you carry out treatment safely in the convenience of your own home. The same brands that manufacture in-office whitening solutions offer at-home kits.
- Peroxide concentration in at-home systems typically ranges from 10 to 38%.
- A systematic review on at-home whitening found daily treatment times ranged from two to 10 hours per day, over a period of six to 28 days.
- Nighttime whitening generally takes two weeks and is the preferred method for patients that can tolerate wearing trays for an extended period of time.
Below are the most common types of at-home whitening kits:
- Zoom: DayWhite is worn twice a day and NiteWhite is worn overnight and removed as soon as you get up in the morning.
- Opalescence: Opalescence Go features their proprietary gel in pre-filled trays with a hydrogen peroxide concentration of either 10 or 15%.
- KöR: Nighttime and daytime whitening options and different formulas are available, based on your needs.
Although at-home whitening costs considerably less than in-office treatment, the lower peroxide content typically requires several weeks and patient compliance to achieve the desired outcome.
Over The Counter (OTC) Teeth Whitening Options
Many OTC whitening products include hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide due to their ability to penetrate all the way through tooth enamel to the dentin layer. Even so, OTC whitening options aren’t the best long-term solution for eliminating deeper stains caused by aging, medications, or tobacco use.
If you’re considering buying any OTC whitening products, look at online reviews and/or ask your dentist for a recommendation.
Below are the most common OTC whitening options:
- Whitening toothpastes: Most include abrasives to remove surface stains, although some also contain a low level of peroxide to help lighten tooth color. Whitening toothpastes with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance for stain removal have additional polishing agents that are safe for your teeth and more effective at reducing surface stains.
- Whitestrips: While there are other brands, Crest is the number one at-home OTC whitening choice of dentists and ADA approved. There are many options to choose from based on strength, duration of the whitening procedure, and cost. Whitestrips are used every day for a set number of days to achieve results that can last up to six months or more.
- Teeth whitening pens: Pens can whiten teeth, but are best used with other types of whitening products as a way to maintain your desired degree of whitening. With this easy-to-use option, you simply brush the whitening gel directly onto your teeth.
Although OTC whitening products are far less expensive than at-home or in-office treatment, the best products and even ADA-approved options take significantly longer to achieve similar levels of whitening. They can also cause tooth and gum sensitivity and wear down tooth enamel with frequent use.
Natural Teeth Whitening Remedies
Natural teeth whitening remedies date back to ancient Egypt when people used ground pumice stone, wine vinegar, and ground oxen hooves to remove stains! The primary issue with most modern natural remedies is that their effectiveness isn’t clinically proven.
Below are the most common natural whitening remedies:
- Oil pulling: The theory is that washing the mouth with edible oil (e.g., coconut) removes dirt, bacteria, debris, and may help whiten teeth. The ADA considers oil pulling to be unconventional dentistry because there are no reliable scientific studies to indicate this practice reduces cavities, whitens teeth, or improves a patient’s oral health.
- Baking soda: A number of clinical studies have shown that baking soda–based toothpastes are more effective at stain removal and whitening than some non–baking soda varieties. It’s best to use a commercial toothpaste because baking soda alone can be too abrasive.
- Fruits: The theory is that naturally acidic fruit like lemons, oranges, and apple cider vinegar, as well as pineapple with the digestive enzyme bromelain can help whiten teeth. The truth is the acid in fruit and apple cider vinegar can wear away tooth enamel. But, a 2017 study concluded that pineapple extract added to hydrogen peroxide whitened teeth significantly better than hydrogen peroxide alone.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Teeth Whitening
Today, there are a huge number of options to brighten your smile, each of which differs in terms of effectiveness, duration of treatment, and cost. The bottom line…getting professional whitening from your dentist is the best method for getting the dazzling white smile of your dreams!
Whether you want to start with an OTC option or get professional teeth whitening, consulting a dentist like Dr. David Sabourin is an essential first step. A dentist has the expertise to determine what treatment can remove stains and whiten your teeth safely and effectively.
Speak to a Specialist like Dr. Sabourin
Dr. Sabourin has more than 35 years of cosmetic dentistry expertise and offers top-rated whitening technologies that will safely restore your teeth to their brightest best! To find out what type of tooth whitening is right for you, schedule a complimentary consultation today.