Teeth whitening is a multi-billion dollar business in the United States. It encompasses both over-the-counter products, DIY “hacks” and professional products you can only get from your dentist. It includes toothpastes, mouth rinses, gels, wands, and professional treatments.
Today, the teeth whitening possibilities are almost endless!
This blog will teach you what you need to know about teeth whitening so that you can make the best choice for your specific goals.
Teeth Whitening vs. Teeth Polishing
The first thing you need to know is that not all products with the word “whitening” in the name are actually teeth whiteners.
Truly whitening the teeth, changing their color from the inside out, must involve the use of a chemical that penetrates the teeth’s enamel and breaks down dark colored compounds in the hard tooth structure. At this time, the only chemicals capable of accomplishing this are in the hydrogen peroxide family. If you do not see the word “peroxide” in the list of active ingredients, you are not looking at a true teeth whitener.
Many products that claim to whiten the teeth are actually teeth polishers, removing surface stains from enamel. This applies to all “whitening” toothpastes and every single Do-It-Yourself whitening hack you see on Pinterest and Instagram. Polishing the teeth uses abrasive materials to gently sand away the external stains that build up on enamel.
Many people have dark staining on the outside of the teeth due to habits like coffee and tea drinking, smoking or other tobacco us, and frequent red wine consumption. Using a whitening toothpaste to polish away these stains is a great way to maintain a white smile!
Polishing with Whitening Toothpastes vs. DIY Recipes
As discussed above, these both remove surface staining by polishing the enamel with an abrasive substance. Whitening toothpastes go through a strict regulation protocol that includes measuring their RDA (Radioactive Dentin Abrasivity), which determines if the material is safe to use on enamel. Toothpastes with approved RDA measurements will polish stains from the enamel without damaging the enamel and actually sanding it away over time.
DIY Toothpaste Recipes
Making your own “teeth whitening toothpaste” is rising in popularity due to the plethora of recipes found on Pinterest or Instagram. These DIY recipes typically use an abrasive agent, like activated charcoal, or an acid, like fruit juices. Both of these ingredients are dangerous and harmful to enamel! Homemade products cannot be tested to determine the safety to enamel. Fruit juices are acidic and known to cause acid erosion to the teeth.
You will likely spend more money on the ingredients for a DIY toothpaste recipe than on a tube of whitening toothpaste. Just don’t do it!
Teeth Whitening with Over-the-Counter vs. Professional Products
Now that we have gotten teeth polishing out of the way, let’s talk about true teeth whitening. Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are the best active ingredients in teeth whiteners, and they must be in contact with the enamel for an extended period of time to break down the dark stains under the tooth surface.
(This is why whitening mouthrinses are not effective. You cannot hold the mouthrinse in your mouth in contact with the teeth long enough to make an impact.)
There are a few important distinctions between over-the-counter whitening gels and professional products.
- Over-the-counter gels typically come in lower concentrations of the active peroxide ingredient than professional products. This means they may take longer to work or not quite reach your whitening goals. Any OTC whitening gel with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance is safe to use and proven effective. Many people try OTC whiteners and notice a small improvement but still want more. In that case, you should consider switching to a professional product. With a higher concentration of peroxide, you will achieve a better whitening result more quickly.
- All whitening gels can cause teeth sensitivity as a side effect. Our professional teeth whitening gel, Opalescence®, contains potassium nitrate and fluoride to fight sensitivity. Over-the-counter products do not have any anti-sensitivity ingredients, so the side effects may be worse. If you know your teeth tend to be sensitive, call us to schedule a whitening consultation and learn how Opalescence® is the best solution for your whitening goals.
- The method you use to apply the whitening gel to your teeth is important! When you choose professional whitening gels through your dentist, we make a set of upper and lower custom whitening trays. Because these trays are made from an identical model of your teeth, they fit the teeth intimately. This holds the gel against your teeth and nowhere else! It prevents gel from extruding up onto the gums, causing tenderness or irritation. It also allows you to use the most conservative amount of whitening gel, effectively making it last longer! Over-the-counter products use a generic carrier or moldable material. These will not closely rest against the teeth surfaces, requiring you to use more gel with less result.
Which Teeth Whitening Option is Right for You?
Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a teeth whitening consultation. Our cosmetic dentistry experts will assess all of your risk areas and consider any possible side effects as they guide you to the right whitening choice.