Many of us are ready to start the new year with a brighter smile and whiter teeth. For some patients, at-home whitening kits are the first step. They’re inexpensive and convenient, but they don’t always get the job done. What are my choices for at-home whitening, and what should I do if over-the-counter kits don’t work for me?
At-Home Whitening: What Are My Options?
At-home whitening has come a long way. You can spend a little or a lot – from basic whitening strips to high-tech LED whitening kits. Most OTC kits use carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide bleaching agents, the same products your dentist uses but at much lower levels. The active ingredients in home kits are weaker to protect user safety. But this also means you can expect a gradual rather than immediate effect. They’re less expensive than in-office treatments. And while OTC treatments are successful for many, they often bring a temporary fix. They work well for mild stains and help maintain your bright smile when you don’t have significant discoloration. But if you have deep stains or discoloration that’s not related to food or drink, there’s a good chance you may need help from your dentist. Here’s a look at some of the most popular at-home options:
- Whitening strips are one of the most popular OTC options. They contain a peroxide-based bleaching agent on a thin strip of plastic. They’re easier to use than many other at-home options and one of the least expensive choices. The Crest brand strips are well-known and frequently recommended by dentists for short-term whitening.
- Whitening wraps: are similar to strips and are pre-coated with a low-dose peroxide. They’re inexpensive and available on drugstore shelves with multiple name-brand and generic options.
- Over-the-counter tray systems use flexible material that molds to your teeth. They can be pre-filled with peroxide gel or come with a measured dose of the product. They’re usually pricier than strips and take longer than other at-home treatments.
- Whitening pens are trending in 2021. These wands contain whitening products that you brush across the surface of your teeth. They’re portable, so you can use them after eating or drinking. They’re easy to use and inexpensive.
- LED whitening products are also hot, with celebrities sharing photos of glowing dental trays on social media. LED systems involve applying a chemical whitening agent and then using LED light to create a chemical reaction. Most brands require using the LED treatment daily for a few weeks. LED systems are pricier than traditional OTC whitening products, ranging from $80 to $150 and beyond.
Why Isn’t My At-Home Whitening Kit Working?
There are several reasons your home kit may not be having a significant impact. There are also potential oral health risks if you don’t use drugstore products correctly.
- The lower concentration of peroxide means less dramatic and more gradual results.
- OTC products don’t work on cosmetic dentistry treatments like bonding and veneers, leading to color mismatches with your natural teeth.
- Incorrect application can lead to uneven whitening, especially with pens.
- OTC whitening products can hurt your gums if you don’t apply chemicals properly.
- At-home whitening products can hurt your teeth and lead to dental sensitivity if you leave them on too long.
Check with your dentist before trying over-the-counter products. Your dentist can recommend products that will meet your needs while protecting your gums and enamel.
What Are The Benefits Of In-Office Whitening?
Your dentist can use more concentrated bleaching agents because he has the tools and expertise to protect your gums and soft tissue. The peroxide treatments your dentist uses can contain up to 40 percent peroxide, while at-home products use just 8 to 10 percent.
Your dentist starts with a thorough cleaning to prime your teeth for the whitening products. He’ll use a special dam to protect your mouth and gums from the stronger chemicals. Some in-office technology uses high-intensity UV lights to speed up the process. Most treatments at your dentist’s office take 30 to 45 minutes. We usually recommend several treatments for best results, but you’ll see dramatic results immediately.
What If Whitening Doesn’t Work For Me?
Sometimes patients experience what’s known as “intrinsic” discoloration, which goes beyond staining. It often results from the aging process and health conditions. Even powerful in-office whitening sometimes can’t help deep-rooted discoloration. In this case, “restorative” treatments like veneers and bonding are often the best solution. They’re more expensive and require a bigger commitment but represent a proven solution for severe discoloration and other cosmetic issues.
- Veneers are made from thin porcelain material. As the name suggests, they cover the entire tooth. Veneers are an excellent solution when multiple teeth need improvement. Veneers require careful shaping to suit your mouth and achieve your desired look. They also require the removal of a thin layer of enamel to allow the porcelain to adhere.
- Composite bonding is another procedure that can tackle discoloration and other cosmetic issues. It involves applying a synthetic resin to the tooth to cover up stains with a whiter color and hide other flaws. Your dentist covers your tooth with a solution to help the resin adhere, then applies and shapes the resin and hardens with a UV light. It’s an easier and less expensive procedure than veneers but typically doesn’t last as long.
Talk WIth Your Family Dentist About Whitening Options
Dental professionals understand that while oral health is the cornerstone of their practice, patients also care about their appearance. A bright, white smile boosts confidence. That’s why so many family dentists are also skilled at performing cosmetic procedures. At Hall Family Dentistry, we use the state-of-the-art Philips Zoom Professional whitening system, which can whiten your teeth up to eight shades in just one treatment. Dr. Hall also has decades of experience improving smiles with veneers and bonding. Let’s get the conversation started if you have discoloration that won’t go away with other treatments. A cosmetic consultation is the first step in achieving the smile of your dreams.