Teeth Whitening

Before After

There are many different methods for whitening your own natural teeth. You’ve probably seen the ads for offices that claim to be able to whiten your teeth in just an hour using different lights and lasers. Or perhaps you've seen the many over-the-counter solutions for whitening teeth.

Virtually every whitening method, except whitening toothpaste, is based on one chemical. That chemical is a special kind of peroxide. Whether you’re purchasing an over the counter bleaching product or having the bleaching done in a fancy office setting, the peroxide is effectively the same and the results can be as well.

So, which method do I choose?

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each system:

Over the counter whitening strips:

Advantages: Your teeth will eventually get white, they are easy to purchase, and initially may be cost effective.

Disadvantages: Because this is not a custom fit product, the peroxide can have a tendency to get everywhere and can get on your gums. In addition, the strips usually do not cover all of the teeth in your smile, so you may have to use multiple strips for one application. Finally, the concentration of peroxide is comparably low so results may take longer to achieve and realize.

Other over the counter methods (paint-on, etc)

Advantages: Your teeth will eventually get white, they are easy to purchase, and initially may be cost effective.

Disadvantages: Because the peroxide is not being held against the teeth by any trays or strips, you will probably swallow more of the peroxide. Other disadvantages are the same as the whitening strips. We have not seen any definitive evidence proving the effectiveness of this product. 

Whitening toothpaste

Whitening toothpaste does not contain any peroxide and therefore does not possess the same “whitening” qualities that the other products on this page contain. One toothpaste sales representative told us that the only reason that these toothpastes can even call themselves “whitening” toothpastes is because they have particles in them that are more abrasive to teeth and therefore may remove some surface enamel that has been stained. In our office, we would much rather lighten the color of stained enamel than remove it by recommending abrasive toothpastes! In fact, we have had many patients who have complained of tooth sensitivity after using whitening toothpastes. We do not recommend these products for their whitening qualities and they do not have the ADA seal of approval for whitening.

Whitening mouthwashes

To our knowledge, these have not been proven to be effective tooth whitening products at all and they do not have the ADA seal of approval for teeth whitening.

Custom Trays

Advantages: This is the method that we recommend most commonly in our office. The trays are made of a soft plastic and are custom molded to your teeth. You can apply the whitening gel on your own at home and you can use a variety of different peroxide strengths. In addition, you are in control of the amount of time the tray is left on and how many times you wear it. If your teeth are sensitive following the whitening, we provide you with a fluoride gel that is usually effective at alleviating these symptoms. This is a safe and very effective method for whitening teeth.

Disadvantages: You may have to wait a few days for the trays to be made. Also, if you choose to use a peroxide product that is too strong, it could cause some tooth sensitivity that we can usually treat effectively.

In-office bleaching: (Zoom, Laser Smile, etc)

Advantages: In most cases your teeth can be lightened in under an hour.

Disadvantages: Peroxide strength is so high that sometimes tooth sensitivity can be a real problem. If any peroxide gets on your gums, lips or cheeks, severe tissue damage can result. In addition, the systems that use lights, lasers, etc., have been proven to just be gimmicks. The research shows that teeth can be whitened just as effectively with the peroxide alone, without relying on the lights and lasers. It is mostly a marketing gimmick.

Summary: In our office, we recommend Custom Trays. We feel they are the most effective and safest way to whiten teeth.