Whether you have slight discoloration or deep-set stains, there are multiple ways to whiten your teeth. Teeth whitening shouldn’t be hard, and with over-the-counter topical applications to professional whitening services provided by a dentist, any lifestyle and budget can be accommodated.
There are two main types of teeth whitening; extrinsic, which removes discoloration from the surface with an abrasive substance, and intrinsic, which removes the stains by a bleaching process. There are numerous ways that stains can develop, and this can influence what works best to remove them.
These are readily available in nearly any retail store that sells personal care items. They remove stains through an abrasive method combined with ingredients such as activated charcoal, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, or hydroxyapatite. The benefits of this type of whitening include overall tooth health as they also clean the teeth simultaneously. Toothpastes that contain hydrogen peroxide, however, can cause damage to the teeth if it is used more than the recommended amount.
The classic toothbrush with soft to hard bristles has existed for decades. Recent advancements have led to electric, sonic, and rotating brushes that can help prevent staining from occurring by removing more surface plaque and food particles. Electric, oscillating toothbrushes are also very effective in removing stains in hard to reach places that a manual brush would find difficult.
Professional Whitening Services
This option can be a lot more expensive than most of the other ways to whiten teeth but is overall extremely effective. A gel is applied to the surface of the teeth, either a highly concentrated type of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which is activated by a polymerization light, sometimes followed by a UV light treatment. Usually applied over one to three sessions, this method takes about an hour each time.
The downside to this method is that it frequently only lasts around a week, making it an expensive short-term solution. People attending a major ceremony or life event may find this option the best way to quickly and safely apply whitening, but the cost may prohibit this as a long-term solution.
Whitening Gel Trays
A gel tray is custom-fitted to your teeth by your dentist which allows the whitening gel to reach as much of the surface of your teeth as possible. The gel is purchased separately and must be kept chilled. The tray fits over your teeth and should be made to protect your gums from coming into contact with the gel. To get the tray made will require at least two visits to your dentist so this can factor into the cost.
It is very important that the gel not come into contact with your skin for more than a minute or two. It should be rinsed away fairly quickly; otherwise, you may experience some discomfort or discoloration of the skin if it stays on for any length of time. Like any toothpaste or gel that contains whitening agents, it is important not to swallow any of them.
The tray is normally used daily for about three weeks, up to 8 weeks for much darker stains, but you should not use it for longer than that, and you should only do this process once a year. You should also be careful not to purchase over-the-counter gels that have a higher than 10% concentration of peroxide; anything above 10% may cause your teeth to become sensitive.
These have become a popular alternative to the more expensive trays and work in a similar fashion. Though unlike the trays, they do not conform perfectly to your teeth, they do come very close. These also have a convenience factor as they can be applied to your teeth for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, some go up to an hour, and are then discarded making them a quicker option than professional services or the gel tray.
One of the downsides to them is that the gel that is applied to them can easily come into contact with your gums, which you would want to avoid as much as possible. They also come in one-size fits all or in small/medium or large/extra-large sizes, which may not cover the entire surface.
There are a few homemade options or alternative solutions than commercial products for whitening your teeth.
Baking soda is a natural whitening agent. You can find commercial toothpaste with baking soda in it, a better overall tooth-cleaning agent, but just the homemade paste will also remove plaque, giving some cleaning benefit.
Oral Care & Tooth Maintenance
Of course, avoiding certain liquids or foods can help prevent stains, to begin with, but with as many as there are, it is unlikely you will be able to avoid all of them. Instead, after you have drunk your coffee, tea, or red wine, try to brush as soon as possible or at least rinse with mouthwash. Keeping up with regular dentist appointments to take care of any cavities or to perform healthy root canals if you are experiencing dental pain will also help your whitening attempts as the gels used can cause painful sensations to exposed areas. You can also discuss with your dentist whether or not you are a good candidate for teeth straightening. Getting a good amount of sleep each night is also helpful as sleep deprivation harms dental health by keeping your immune system from working at its best, which may lead to tooth decay or gum disease. Brushing and flossing twice a day is also two of the most important things you can do to keep your teeth looking their best.
Best Whitening Options
Best Overall – Gel Whitening Trays: They will cover your teeth exactly and give the best long-term whitening effect. There is some expense involved, but even the more economical choices of whitening toothpaste or strips can add up if you use them frequently enough.
Best Value – Whitening Strips: These are moderately inexpensive, do not take an exceptional amount of time, and are easily applied and removed with little clean-up.
Most convenient – Whitening Toothpaste & Brush: This option does not require any changes to your daily routine, is inexpensive (depending on the brush you choose, there may be a little bit of an initial layout), and is effective at removing surface and some deeper stains over time.