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What to Look for in a Tooth-Whitening Product

Wednesday, May 18th

What to Look for in a Tooth-Whitening Product

How you look goes a long way toward making a positive first impression. A good physical appearance is more than just being dressed appropriately - it also includes a healthy set of pearly whites.

Your smile often is the first thing most people see when they meet you. But smiling with a mouth full of discolored teeth is sure to make the wrong impression. Teeth naturally develop a yellowish hue as a person gets older. Frequently drinking too many dark-colored beverages, such as coffee, tea, cola and red wines, also can darken the appearance of one's teeth. Use of tobacco products - smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco - can cause an unnatural yellowing effect.

There is no need to suffer with tooth discoloration. Several options are available to help improve the health and appearance of your teeth. The most popular option available today is tooth-whitening products, available through both dental professionals as well as over-the-counter.

But which product is better? What should you look for in a tooth-whitening product?

Before you choose any method, visit a dental professional to have your teeth properly cleaned and inspected. Tooth-whitening products administered through a dental office or at home will not work well on teeth that have not been properly cleaned or which have cavities. Any cavities that are discovered should first be filled for the best results with any tooth-whitening product.

A professional whitening procedure, performed in a dentist's office, can cost upwards of $650. A professional whitening procedure uses a bleach or hydrogen peroxide solution that is significantly stronger than what is available over the counter. Because the solution used in a dentist's office is so powerful, a person can see results after just one application.

To ensure you are receiving a quality professional dental whitening procedure, it is imperative that the dentist match the level of solution being used to the current coloring of your teeth. Going too white too quickly can have a negative effect, creating a "fake" look. The best option for most people who seek out professional whitening is to have a partial procedure done in the dentist's office, followed up by a home application. The home portion of the procedure will consist of a solution the dentist has specially-prepared for your level of whitening. It is placed in trays nightly for several days or weeks, and the user wears the trays for a set period of time - often overnight. Both portions of the procedure are likely to cost around $1,000 combined.

If you cannot afford such a steep cost, there are over-the-counter options which will improve the look and feel of your teeth.

But how do you select the best one?

Choose an at-home product which contains a carbamide peroxide solution. This is the most effective at-home solution. Most do-it-yourself products come in the form of strips saturated in the solution, which are to be attached to the teeth and left on for a set period of time. Many people have found that slight discoloration caused by drinking coffee, tea and other dark liquids can be effectively handled with at-home products. At a cost of $10 to $35, this is a far more affordable option than professional whitening. These at-home products need to be used for several weeks before results are evident, so if you choose this route, stick with it and be patient.

No matter which option you choose, remember that tooth-whitening procedures are temporary and will need to be repeated every six to 12 months.

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Teeth Whitener FAQ

Many people have stains on their teeth from coffee, cola, and even just day-to-day foods. Most teeth whiteners work by combining oxygen from the air and carbon in the dentin layer of the teeth, which breaks apart any colored molecules still stuck to the teeth (and which aren't removed by regular dental cleanings). Some teeth whitening systems use a whitening gel in combination with an LED light appliance for increased effectiveness, while others only use topical application of liquids or strips.
The process itself usually takes anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, depending on which system you choose. How long will it take to see a whiter smile? Some teeth whiteners produce noticeably brighter teeth within one or two applications, while others take a week or more of regular treatments.
Teeth whitening can result in sensitivity in the teeth and gums. If you're experiencing sensitivity, you can shorten your treatment time during each application or use the product less often than recommended. There are also special toothpastes that can ease sensitivity. But, the whitening process itself is rarely painful, no matter which method you choose.
It is possible for teeth whiteners to damage tooth enamel when not used properly. However, if you follow the manufacturer's directions carefully, there should be no risk to your teeth. (In other words, don't try to whiten your teeth faster than recommended!)
Not much! Most in-office teeth whiteners use the same treatment solutions (hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide) and send you home with trays to use for maintenance that are exactly like what you'd buy to use on your own in the first place. Yes, having your teeth whitened at the dentist's office gives you the reassurance that you're not overdoing it, but you're paying a lot more for it too.
That depends on you! If you avoid smoking and teeth-staining foods and drinks (like coffee and blueberries!), use a straw whenever possible, and keep up with your regular dental cleanings, your pearly-white smile should last a long time - several months to a year or more.
At-home teeth whitening systems are surprisingly affordable! Some of the most effective products cost less than $50 for 20 applications (and you'd pay four times that much for a single in-office whitening treatment from your dentist!).
Most manufacturers of teeth whitening products offer a satisfaction guarantee of at least 30 days, giving you plenty of time to try it out and see if you get results. Just be aware that some products' fine print says that you can only get a refund if the product is unused (not very helpful, we know).
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