There are many products and techniques available for patients who want to achieve a whiter smile, and with so many options available, it can be difficult to choose the method that is right for you. The best way to begin any teeth whitening regimen is to schedule an appointment, and talk to your doctor about the differences between in-office professional whitening and at-home whitening.
In-Office Teeth Whitening
The first professional option is commonly referred to as “in-office” whitening. This procedure is performed in a dental office. An in-office whitening treatment may include the use of a whitening lamp or laser to enhance the effectiveness of the whitening gel by accelerating the peroxide.
During an office visit, your dental professional will apply the whitening gel and, depending on the system being used, will shine a light source directly onto the teeth. The entire office visit generally takes about 90 minutes with immediate results.
At-Home Teeth Whitening
Tray bleaching is a type of professional whitening that uses custom-made trays and whitening gel only available through your dentist. The whitening gel is placed in custom-fitted trays that fit perfectly over your teeth. As the peroxide in the gel breaks down, hydroxyradicals help whiten stained teeth. Unlike strips, this process whitens all your natural teeth and may contain ingredients intended to provide maximum comfort. At-home professional tray whitening generally takes ten to 14 days, although you may notice results in as little as three to five days.
Paint-On Teeth Whiteners
There are many over-the-counter teeth whitening options, and one type of readily accessible whitening product is commonly referred to as “paint-on” teeth whiteners. Paint-on whiteners can be purchased over-the-counter, and are generally less expensive and less effective than whitening strips or professional options. Paint-on teeth whiteners consist of a gel that is applied to the tooth using a small brush. Paint-on whitening gel hardens into a film that coats the treated tooth, and dissolves in the mouth. As with any teeth whitening regimen, it is wise to consult with a dental professional before treating discolored teeth.
Teeth Whitening Strips
Teeth whitening strips are thin, flexible plastic (polyethylene) strips with a thin film of hydrogen peroxide bleaching on one side. Whitening strip kits come with two types of strips: strips for the upper teeth and strips for the lower teeth. The bleaching agent is applied by placing the strips across your teeth and gently pressing the strips into place to ensure contact with all your teeth. Teeth whitening strips are typically worn for 30 minutes a day, twice a day. The duration of treatment will vary.
Teeth Whitening Toothpaste and Mouthwash
The least expensive options are whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes. Designed to have “whitening” capabilities, toothpastes and mouthwashes work to remove surface stains using mild abrasives. However, unlike bleaching materials used in professional whitening procedures, these products do not lighten the actual color shade of the tooth. Whitening toothpastes affect surface stains and will mildly lighten your teeth.