Holiday parties are right around the corner, are your teeth ready? When it only takes one click to upload a picture to Facebook, you want to be sure you've got your pearly whites, well, pearly white. Instead of going to the dentist (hello, it's crazy end-of-year time now!), head to the drugstore. Between the toothpastes, gels, strips and rinses you've got plenty of options. Find out how they work and if they're safe for your chompers.How do teeth whitening products work?
Hydrogen peroxide is the most commonly used ingredient in teeth whitening products because it is the most effective way to whiten teeth. Hydrogen peroxide releases oxygen, which then reacts with the stains on your teeth providing a whitening effect - basically acting as bleach for your teeth. However, hydrogen peroxide does need some time to work, which is why strips or gels (which have direct contact with your teeth) provide the best whitening effect. Usually you leave these products on for some extended amount of time so the hydrogen peroxide can do its job.
In the case of toothpastes and rinses, you will get less of a whitening effect because the whitening ingredients used in those products don't have as much exposure to your teeth to provide as much of a benefit. The fact is, all toothpastes provide some whitening since they have a slightly "abrasive" effect to help remove surface stains.
Are these products safe?
Good news - yes! The effects of whitening agents on tooth structure have been studied and have been found to have no negative effects on tooth enamel. In fact, it has been shown that teeth whitened with an in-office system, the strongest of any whitening agents, were equivalent to those only brushed with toothpaste or rinsed with water! However, some people do experience slight sensitivity when using these products, it's not harming your teeth, it's just uncomfortable. As SELF found in 2010, if you whiten your teeth with a kit or in an office three or more times a year, you could get nerve damage and loss of enamel so like most things, don't overdo it. Also, when using leave-on whitening products (like strips) avoid the gums and other soft tissue areas because they are more sensitive than your teeth. Of course, if you have any real issues with teeth sensitivity be sure to talk to your dentist.