How To Whiten Teeth

Woman getting a dental groom

Tooth bleaching has now become the most sought-after dental treatment in the United States, with the number of tooth whitening procedures being performed in dentists' offices increasing by more than 300 percent in the last five year. There are many different options for those wishing to whiten their teeth - from $25 over-the-counter strips to $600+ specialized in-office dental procedures.

  1. Determine if you are a candidate for tooth whitening. Children under 16 years old, those with sensitive teeth or gums, pregnant and nursing women, and those with peroxide allergies should ask their dentist for advice before embarking upon a tooth whitening journey. Also, remember that fillings and crowns will not bleach, and tooth whitening does not work on all stains.

  2. Avoid stains on your teeth. To avoid needing tooth whitening, limit foods and beverages that stain, such as coffee, tea and red wine. Drinking from a straw can limit the effect of staining beverages on teeth. Smoking, of course, also stains teeth.

  3. Consider the commitment. Teeth that have been whitened will not stay white forever. Most people need to get whitening touch-ups once or twice a year. If that sounds too high maintenance for you, you might want to stick with your natural shade.

  4. Use whitening strips. One popular method of whitening your teeth is to use whitening strips, like Crest White Strips. These strips are flexible and are coated with a mild peroxide gel. They conform to the shape of your teeth and produce results in 5 to 10 days. Since the levels of hydrogen peroxide are lower than a dentist can provide, the strips will not act quickly, and may cause tooth sensitivity or irritation to the gums.

  5. Use whitening ampules. These whitening systems have individual ampules that are rubbed on the teeth once or twice a day. They can also cause irritation and tooth sensitivity, and are often more expensive - and effective than whitening strips.

  6. Use over-the-counter whitening trays. These trays are formed to fit your mouth, and are filled with the peroxide solution. They have the same advantages and disadvantages as the strips and ampules - they are inexpensive but are not as effective as professional whitening, and can cause irritation and sensitivity.

  7. Get a custom mouth tray from your dentist. This tray is custom fit to your mouth, meaning that there will be less gum irritation than when using an over-the-counter tray. You fill this tray with a peroxide solution from your dentist. The procedure can take from one to three weeks, but is generally successful. This is less expensive than having the procedure done in the dentist's office but more expensive than over-the-counter treatments.

  8. Get your whitening done by a professional. Although this is the most expensive option, it is also the most successful. Since dentists can use a much higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide than is available over the counter, your teeth will become much whiter. The hydrogen peroxide gel is combined with laser or light treatments, and the gums are protected, leading to a controlled, safe, and effective - if expensive - whitening experience.

Remember, not every stain can be helped by whitening. Yellowish stains are easier to bleach than stains that are more gray, purple or brown. Talk to your dentist if you have specific questions about whitening your teeth.


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