Teeth Whitening: Pros & Cons of Teeth Whitening Methods

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woman teeth before and after whitening. Over white background

There are a number of teeth whitening methods that can brighten your smile. That said, they don’t all provide the same level of success. If you’d like to know how to whiten teeth without damaging your enamel, consider the following guide on popular tooth whitening techniques.

Teeth Whitening Methods

These days, there are a variety of whitening options available to people with discolored teeth. Results and prices vary, based on the specific procedure. The most popular options include:

Laser whitening: This whitening technique uses heat to activate a peroxide gel applied directly over the teeth. On the plus side, the procedure is relatively fast and can lighten the color of teeth by several shades. On the down side, it is relatively costly, and some patients claim to experience tooth sensitivity following treatments.

In-office bleaching trays: With these treatments, bleaching solutions are typically much stronger than at-home kits. What’s more, light, heat or a combination of the two is sometimes used to intensify and speed up the whitening process. Teeth tend to get from three to eight shades brighter; however, several office visits may be needed for optimal results. Some dentists use rapid techniques, such as the Zoom!® system, which uses a special ultraviolet light to enhance the whitening gel. Depending on the technique, the individual dentist and region, in-office whitening treatments can cost between $500 and $1,000.

At-home bleaching trays: This whitening option involves a mouth guard-like tray filled with a peroxide-based bleaching paste or gel. The user places the tray over the teeth for one to several hours per day for up to a month. At-home trays are available over-the-counter and cost between $150 and $600. While some people experience good results with these systems, they are not as powerful as professional treatments and may prove ineffective for certain people.

Porcelain veneers: When deep stains do not respond to traditional teeth-whitening treatments, some people turn to porcelain veneers. Bonded over the surface of teeth, these thin sheets of porcelain provide a bright, white smile that looks completely natural. Porcelain veneers are a good option when the dentin within teeth has darkened due to fluorosis, tetracycline or trauma. While they do offer very good results, porcelain veneers can sometimes become somewhat transparent with age.

Whitening toothpastes: While all toothpastes contain abrasive elements that help to remove stains, whitening toothpastes also contain chemicals or polishing agents that make them a bit more powerful. With regular use, these products can make teeth about one shade lighter.

Whitening strips: These peroxide-based tooth bleaching products are applied directly over teeth once or twice per day for about two weeks. They are available as strips or as a gel applied using a brush. Results are usually mild to nonexistent, and the costs range from $10 to $55.

Natural Teeth Whitening

Unfortunately, there is an abundance of online myths about natural remedies for whitening teeth. Whether it’s coconut oil, baking soda, strawberries or lemon juice, these so-called natural solutions usually either don’t work or cause unexpected problems. For instance, there is no scientific evidence that coconut oil can whiten teeth. What’s more, solutions comprised of lemon, strawberry and/or baking soda have been shown to damage enamel and reduce the surface hardness of teeth by up to 10 percent.

Even if natural remedies are able whiten your teeth somewhat, it’s only because they are helping to remove plaque accumulation on your teeth. To get noticeable results, you need something that will penetrate into your teeth and break down stain molecules.

Keeping Your Teeth White

While modern whitening treatments can drastically improve the appearance of your smile, it’s important to remember that these effects are not permanent. To prolong the effects, be sure to brush your teeth twice a day and avoid foods and beverages that may stain your teeth.

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