Do teeth whitening kits work?

 You can whiten your teeth. At home or by visiting your dentist, you can get a brighter smile. Whitening can not only remove stains from coffee, tea, coffee, wine, and smoking, continuing to use it can keep them white.

 Some methods work better than others. Essentially, you’ll find three main categories of teeth whitening methods:

  • natural or home remedies,
  • at-home kits,
  • professional treatments.

 Within these, you will find two types of whitening methods. Bleaching products contain peroxides that change the tooth’s color by removing surface and deep stains. Most of these over-the-counter and prescription whiteners contain peroxide. Over-the-counter can contain only up to 10 percent peroxide. Prescription-strength whiteners can contain 20 to 40 percent peroxide. Methods using a non-bleaching method contain agents that abrade stains from the teeth using physical or chemical action.

Home Remedies

 Before trying a kit, you may decide to try home remedies. These work on a very temporary basis, but can give you a brighter smile for a day. You might try a combination of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda as a paste, a strawberry paste, a banana peel rub, apple cider vinegar rinse, or charcoal paste.

 You cannot use these daily. Even the natural methods harm your teeth. You can apply these natural teeth cleaners about once per week or every two weeks.

At-Home Kits

 You can find four main types of over-the-counter teeth whitening applications:

  • whitening toothpaste
  • tray-based bleaching systems
  • bleaching strips
  • bleaching gels

 Whitening toothpaste uses a mild abrasive to remove stains from teeth plus chemicals or polishing agents that scrub away stains. These inexpensive pastes brighten teeth approximately one shade. While these sometimes include peroxides, they do not stay on the teeth.

 Tray-based bleaching systems combine a mouth guard-like tray with a bleaching gel or paste that typically contains peroxide. You must use these from one to several hours each day for up to four weeks before seeing the final benefit. Over-the-counter systems cost about $150.

 The strips and gels work in similar ways. You apply them directly to your teeth using a brush or a strip you trim to fit your mouth. You will need to apply these bleaching products once or twice per day for about two weeks. Your results will last about four months. They cost between $10 to $55.

Professional Treatments

According to Dr. Marc Lazare, a leading cosmetic dentist of New York City, power whitening or laser whitening is an alternative to at-home whitening methods and provides faster results. Your dentist can tell you if teeth whitening would work for your dental situation and which products would work best. For example, you cannot bleach bonded teeth and tooth-color fillings. You would need dental bonding or porcelain veneers.

 Carbamide or hydrogen peroxide whitening agents contained within in-office systems use between 15 percent to 43 percent peroxide. These whiteners remain on the teeth a shorter time since they dehydrate the tooth, as well as increased tooth sensitivity.

 The dentist may combine heat or light with the bleaching agent to enhance the efficacy of the whitening process. For example, whitening pens use a whitening gel with a whitening light to speed whitening.

 Some systems lighten in a single visit, such as the Zoom system. To get teeth three to eight shades brighter typically requires several 30- to 60-minute in-office visits. The cost of these in-office whitening methods varies but cost between $500 to $1,000.

Maintaining Your Perfect Smile

 These in-office systems provide the most effective and longest-lasting whitening. You still have to put in the effort to retain the results though. This means brushing, flossing and using a dental rinse daily. You also need to avoid eating acidic and tannin-rich foods and beverages. That means black teas, coffee, red and white wines, sports drinks, carbonated beverages/sodas, berries or other strongly-colored foods, curry, soy, and tomato sauces. Without using these preventative methods, your teeth will return to their prior darkened shade.

 Teeth whitening also comes with a slight warning. It can make your teeth temporarily sensitive. If you apply an at-home kit the wrong way, you can burn your gums. You could also temporarily bleach your gums.

 If your teeth have yellowed, bleaching can help restore their whiteness. You will need a different method if your teeth are brown, gray or purple.

 Consult with your dentist to determine which method would work best for your needs. Your dentist can help you choose an appropriate whitening method regardless of your situation. Rather than whitening your existing teeth, you may need to have them bonded or have veneers applied. These items cannot be done at home. You’ll need to visit your dentist’s office for these methods, but you can work with your dentist to have a whiter smile.

Image credit: teeth whitening via Rudo film/shutterstock

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