How many people wouldn’t like brighter, shinier teeth? We’re guessing it’s not too many. That’s why teeth whitening—whether it involves in-office treatments, professionally prepared take-home kits, or any of the myriad over-the-counter (OTC) products found on drugstore shelves or supermarket aisles—is among the most popular cosmetic dental treatments today. For the most part, teeth whitening involves treating the external surfaces of the teeth with a bleaching solution. And some similar chemistry is used in both professional treatments and OTC products. So why go to the trouble (and expense) of seeing a dentist when all you want is whiter teeth? We’re glad you asked!
While most bleaching solutions are chemically similar, they are available in different strengths and need to be used within specific parameters. But there are more factors involved in tooth whitening than just bleach. Here are some things you may not know:
Not all teeth can be whitened by bleaching their surfaces. Bleaching works well on teeth with extrinsic stains—that is, stains on their outer enamel surface. Teeth with intrisnic (internal) stains don’t respond to bleach unless a dentist applies the chemicals inside the tooth.
Not all teeth can be whitened to the same degree. Each tooth has a maximum whiteness, beyond which it won’t go—and additional bleach treatments won’t make it any whiter.
Discolored teeth can indicate an underlying dental issue. For example, a darker-than-normal tooth may be a sign of tooth decay or a root canal problem. Trying to whiten those teeth is like papering over a leaky ceiling—sooner or later it’s going to be trouble.
Excessive whitening can damage teeth. As with all chemicals, whitening solutions must be used as directed.
Before you spend money on tooth-whitening products, it makes sense to find out what’s causing the discoloration—and whether or not the whitening treatments are likely to work. How to find that out? See your dentist!
When you visit the dental office, you’ll get a complete exam to determine whether you have any issues that could prevent teeth whitening treatments from working the way they should. If problems are found, they can be taken care of before treatment is begun. Next, you’ll probably have a choice of two methods: in-office whitening or a take-home kit. What’s the difference?
In-office whitening uses more concentrated bleach solutions (with appropriate safeguards) under professional supervision. It works fast—lightening teeth by up to 10 shades in a one-hour visit—and it’s safe. Dentist-supplied take-home kits use effective (but less concentrated) bleaching gels, and take longer to work. They can produce the same effect in days, rather than hours; but if you’re willing to be patient, you can achieve great results at lower cost.
What about those OTC products or shopping-mall specials? It’s anyone’s guess. You might end up with whiter teeth, or you might be wasting your money—or worse, ignoring a potentially serious dental problem that’s not going away. So if you really want lighter, healthier teeth, don’t risk it: Ask your dentist what’s the best way to get a whiter, brighter smile! Call us at 1-800-238-5163 to find out about how dental savings plans can help make quality dental care affordable.