Want a whiter smile for the holidays? Healthy white teeth can make you look younger and more attractive, but is a do-it-yourself whiter smile worth the risks? Dr. Rick Dentistry in north Scottsdale explains how over-the-counter (OTC) teeth whiteners can brighten your smile, and how to avoid the pain of tooth sensitivity and the potential risk of damage to your roots and gums.
Do Over-the-Counter Teeth Whiteners Work?
Most DIY whitening methods can be effective, depending on the reason for the discoloration or staining, how carefully the instructions are followed and the desired level of whitening. All teeth whiteners contain the active ingredient hydrogen peroxide (HP) or carbamide peroxide (CP); HP is considered the stronger ingredient. Whitening products have a short shelf-life, so check the expiration date before purchasing.
The FDA allows any product that cleans the surface of teeth to be labeled as “whitening.” Results range from one to three shades whiter for most OTC products, which include the following:
- Whitening strips - The most popular form of OTC teeth whitening, strips are super convenient. Just make sure the strips don’t slip off.
- Bleach trays - Some people say this treatment gives the best results, although the trays are somewhat uncomfortable. Be careful to put only the indicated amount of gel in the trays.
- Paint-on liquids - For best results, carefully apply the recommended amount evenly on the tooth surface. Although more time-consuming to apply than other products, this is an especially useful method for spot-treating trouble spots.
- Whitening toothpaste - Whitening toothpaste just makes teeth temporarily cleaner, It cannot change the color of stained or discolored teeth like the other whitening products.
Note: Teeth whiteners don’t work on dental crowns, porcelain veneers, bridges, or bonding material. Be careful to whiten your natural teeth only to the shade of your dental work to keep your mouth looking natural.
How Much HP or CP is Too Much?
The American Dental Association states: “It is known that at concentrations of 10 percent hydrogen peroxide or higher, the chemical is potentially corrosive to mucous membranes or skin, and can cause a burning sensation and tissue damage.” Keep in mind that above 10 percent HP or 35 percent CP can cause you to experience teeth and gum sensitivity, with potential damage to the gum tissue or the root surfaces.