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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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