Whitening can brighten your smile

Teeth whitening has leaped from the Hollywood red carpet into the homes of everyday people. Whiter and brighter teeth is the No. 1 item people want to improve about their smile, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.

Whitening works well if you have teeth darkened from age, coffee, tea, smoking, medication or heredity, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. Dentists may discourage whitening if you have sensitive teeth.

With several safe and effective treatments to choose from, find out which option works best for you.

What are your options?

In-office tooth whitening

Teeth whitening performed by your dentist can get your teeth brighter faster. The bleaching solution used by your dentist is usually stronger than at-home kits. Also the solution used by your dentist is sometimes coupled with heat or light, resulting in more dramatic results. Teeth whitening procedures are not typically covered under Delta Dental plans; always check your coverage before undergoing dental treatment.

At home tooth whitening

There are several options for bleaching at home. The most common options include:

  • Whitening strips and gels: These over-the-counter, peroxide based products are applied to your teeth using a thin strip or a brush. Typically the product needs to be applied once or twice per day for 10 – 14 days to complete the bleaching process.
  • Whitening toothpastes: All toothpastes help remove surface stain through the action of mild abrasives. Whitening toothpastes have special chemical or polishing agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, these products do not alter the intrinsic color of teeth.
  • Tray-based whitening: You can buy tray-based whitening systems over the counter or have your dentist provide a custom-fitted plastic "tray" (made from impressions of your teeth, the tray looks like a very thin mouthguard). With this whitening option, you place a peroxide-based gel on your teeth typically one hour a day for up to four weeks.

Keeping your teeth white

Results from whitening procedures can last anywhere from one to five years (depending upon your eating, drinking or smoking habits).

When selecting a whitener or any dental product, be sure to look for the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance, which indicates the product has met ADA standards of safety and effectiveness. And, before using any teeth whitening product, consult with your dentist.

Whether you choose an at-home or in-office whitening treatment, you can help maintain your bright smile by brushing and flossing every day and visiting your dentist for a cleaning and check-up at least once a year.

Related reading

Last updated: January 2017
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