What you need to know before buying those whitening strips.
If your pearly whites have seen, er, whiter days, you may be thinking about brightening up those babies. Your first instinct may be to avoid teeth-staining foods and buy some of those white strips you’ve seen on the commercials. Done and done … right?
Not so fast. What many people don’t know is that you shouldn’t just dive in head first to any ol' whitening procedure blindly. For one thing, your teeth have to be “in shape” so the whitening treatments are actually effective and don’t hurt your teeth. Secondly, there are many smile-brightening options available, so you want to be sure you’re picking the one that works best for you (and your wallet).
Here’s the right way to get that bright white smile you’ve always wanted.
What to Do Before You Whiten Your Teeth
Just like it’s wise to check with your doctor before starting a brand-new exercise routine, you should check with your dentist before you whiten your teeth.
“If someone is not happy with the brightness of their teeth, I suggest that they first go to the dentist and check that their enamel is intact,” says Jennifer Jablow, DDS, dentist in New York City. “If you have very thin, translucent, worn down enamel, you’re not going to get the results for whitening anyway, so you might as well not use it.”
It’s also important for your dentist to make sure your gums are healthy, and to check for open cavities. If whitening peroxide gets into cavity openings, it may cause problems.
How to Pick the Right Whitening Procedure
“I would suggest trying an at-home procedure first and seeing how you react to that, before you go to the dentist and spend a lot of money,” says Dr. Jablow.
Over-the-counter (OTC) whitening treatments are often cheaper than dentist office procedures, but have a lower concentration of bleach. If you’re thinking about using an OTC whitening option, make sure you get one with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance, which ensures that it’s safe and effective for teeth whitening.
- Whitening strips: Whitening strips usually work well and are very cost-effective. Even so, there are a few downsides: “They usually only reach the front six teeth, they sit on the gum tissue so you get irritation of the gum tissue, and a lot of people complain about the sensitivity,” says Dr. Jablow.
- One-size-fits-all trays: Whitening trays can whiten your teeth in a short amount of time, but a downfall of the OTC kind is that they’re not custom-fitted to your teeth. “When you put the tray in, the gel [can] goop up all over the place. You might end up ingesting it and swallowing it and getting an irritated throat,” says Dr. Jablow.
- Paint-on gels: Unless you’re an expert at keeping your lips off your teeth, then paint-on gel whiteners aren’t doing your teeth any favors. “The problem with most of the paint-on gel that you see is that as soon as your lips collapse down, the gel rinses away immediately,” says Dr. Jablow.
In-office whitening procedures that you get at the dentist are notably pricier, but they’re supervised by your dentist, are very effective, and usually require only one office visit (aside from maintenance).
- Zoom whitening: Zoom whitening is fast, effective and one of the most popular in-office whitening options, says Dr. Jablow. “It’s a high concentration of peroxide that’s placed on the teeth, and that gel also has what’s called a photocatalyst. The photocatalyst is what makes the light activate the peroxide and break it into tiny little oxygen molecules that break up stains,” she says.
- Custom-fitted whitening trays: “The dentist takes a mold of your mouth so those trays fit you specifically,” says Dr. Jablow. “You fill those trays in and you wear them for about a half an hour to an hour a day, and they whiten in about a week or two weeks.”
What You Need to Know About Whitening Treatments
Whether you chose an OTC whitening option or opt for an in-office procedure, it’s important to understand that all forms of teeth whitening require maintenance.
“Depending on your eating and drinking habits, and how porous your teeth are, you’re going to have to do something to maintain that level of whiteness,” says Dr. Jablow. “Three months down the road you might have to do a touch-up with some trays or some strips or some liquid gel boosters that you’ll add to your toothpaste.”
Along with maintaining that glittering grin, it’s even more important to keep your teeth healthy. That’s why it’s critical to brush your teeth twice a day (especially at night!) and floss every single day as well.
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So if someone is not happy with
the brightness of their teeth,
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I suggest they first go to the dentist and
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check with the dentist to make
sure that their enamel's intact.
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It's really important to make sure that
they don't have any problems with their
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gums, they don't have any open cavities.
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Cuz you don't want the peroxide
getting down into open cavities.
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That can cause a lot of problems as well.
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And you wanna make sure that your
enamel isn't already worn down.
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Because if you have very thin,
translucent, worn-down enamel, you're not
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going to get the results from whitening
anyway, so you might as well not use it.
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But I would suggest trying
an at-home procedure at first and
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seeing how you react to that before you go
to the dentist and spend a lot of money.
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So there are a lot of different options
for whitening over the counter.
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There are the strips that you see in
the commercials and in the drug stores.
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And a lot of people use them.
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But there are some downsides to
them cuz they usually only reach to
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the front six teeth.
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They sit on the gum tissue, so
you get irritation of the gum tissue.
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And a lot of people complain
about the sensitivity.
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However, they are quite effective.
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So you have to balance,
are you gonna wanna be very sensitive,
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do you wanna be super white?
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There are other things like
one size fits all trays.
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When you put the tray in, the gel's
gonna kinda goop up all over the place.
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And you might end up ingesting it,
swallowing it, and
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getting an irritated throat.
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There's also paint-on gels.
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The problem with most of the paint-on gels
that you see is that as soon as your lips
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the gel rinses away immediately.
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And then they're not very effective.
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The most popular in-office procedure
that's been well known for many,
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many years is called zoom whitening.
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What zoom has is it's a high concentration
of peroxide that's placed on the teeth.
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And that gel also has what's
called a photocatalyst.
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The photocatalyst is what makes
the light activate the peroxide and
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break it down into tiny
little oxygen molecules.
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And that's what's going to go ahead and
break up the stain.
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There also custom trays where
the dentist takes a mold of your mouth.
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And then those trays fit you specifically.
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And then you fill those trays in and
wear them for
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about half an hour to an hour a day.
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And they whiten in about a week or
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Even if you're gonna do that
expensive dental office treatment,
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people need to understand that
there's always maintenance involved.
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So depending on your eating and drinking
habits, and how porous your teeth are,
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cuz some people's teeth
are more porous than others,
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you're gonna have to do something to
maintain that level of whiteness.
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And three months down the road, you might
have to do a touch-up with some trays or
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some strips or some liquid gel boosters
that you'll add to your toothpaste.
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So everyone has to understand
that it's not a one-time thing.
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a white smile requires maintenance.
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Whitening: 5 Things to Know About Getting a Brighter Smile. MouthHealthy.org, American Dental Association. (Accessed on June 5, 2018 at https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/w/whitening)