If you're looking for an alternative to professional teeth whitening in a dental office, then do-it-yourself at-home whitening might be right for you. There are dozens of home whitening options available for every budget and temperament – whether professionally dispensed, store-bought or sold on the Internet. Many teeth-whiteners are pre-mixed and ready to use; others require mixing at home.
It may surprise you to learn that many dental professionals believe that dentist-dispensed whitening trays and whitening strips – when used as directed – can be even more successful than in-office bleaching over the long haul. A key reason is their ongoing use, combined with the fact that small amounts of bleach remain within the tooth structure for up to 36 hours. When a new dose of bleach is applied to a tooth retaining the previous day's peroxide, its effect is greater.
However, there are pitfalls to whitening your teeth at home. For example, if you have an underlying condition like tooth decay or gum disease, you could end up enduring extreme pain depending on the concentration of peroxide used. The following article should help you evaluate all the pros and cons of DIY whitening.
Advantages of At-Home Teeth Whitening
Long-term results: Dental professionals agree that the only way to maintain your whitened teeth is with at-home bleaching products, repeated regularly – preferably every four to six months. But lately, many dentists are advising people with very dark-stained or tetracycline-affected teeth to continue home bleaching over a period of months (or up to a year) for optimal results. What's interesting is, the newest teeth whitening strips on the consumer market are intended for five-minute use every day, like brushing or flossing.
Variety: You have a choice of whitening trays, strips or paint-on products, as well as numerous whitening accessories.
Convenience: You can do home whitening at any time of the day or night, for short or extended periods.
Portability: You can also use at-home whitening strips while on the go or at the office.
Cost: Over-the-counter whiteners range from $4 to $100, while dentist-dispensed products cost approximately $400. By contrast, in-office whitening costs an average of $650 per session.
Don't Over do it!
Although you can get over-the-counter whiteners without a dentist's recommendation, if you over-use them or use them incorrectly, they can harm your tooth enamel and irritate your gum tissue. Also, over-bleaching can produce an undesirable bluish hue, chalky whiteness or uneven results (otherwise known as "the technicolor effect").
Supervision by a dentist can prevent these problems. To ensure the health of your smile, see your dentist before choosing an over-the-counter tooth whitener and beginning the bleaching process. Dentists know a lot about these products and can help you choose the right one and use it correctly.
Also keep in mind:
The stronger the peroxide formula, the more rapid its effect; the weaker the formula, the longer it can remain on the teeth safely. A low-percentage bleach used overnight every night of the week will produce about the same results as a high-percentage "day-bleach" that stays on the teeth one hour per day for seven days.
The best time to begin at-home whitening is soon after a dental hygienist's prophylactic cleaning. This procedure removes the surface layer of plaque and grime that can interfere with bleaching.
Dentists and oral care companies urge brushing and flossing the teeth just prior to any kind of at-home or on-the-go whitening.
For best results, don't consume food or beverages (excluding water) for a couple of hours after whitening.
Dentist-Dispensed Take-Home Whitening Trays
According to dental professionals, the best bleaching results come from dentist-dispensed take-home kits – particularly those that are used over extended periods. These kits contain higher percentages of bleach than over-the-counter kits and typically consist of:
Custom-fitted application trays made of a flexible plastic material and offer several benefits: 1) They help ensure that the bleach stays in contact with the teeth, for maximum whitening, 2) They help prevent saliva from coming into contact with the bleaching agent (which can dilute its strength), and 3) They minimize the amount of bleach that can dribble onto (and potentially irritate) the gums