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Over-the-counter teeth whitening and 7 common questions

Over-the-counter teeth whitening and 7 common questions

A key feature of our look is our smile, yet many of us are self-conscious about our teeth. Because of this, teeth whitening is the most popular cosmetic dentistry procedure in the US. Thanks to dental advancements, there are now numerous at-home teeth-whitening products on the market to help you achieve a brighter smile conveniently.

What stains may an over-the-counter teeth whitening product be able to get rid of?

The stains that cause the most concern for people can be effectively removed by over-the-counter teeth whitening kits, which can yield similar results to both in-office and take-home whitening treatments. These kits are particularly effective at eliminating stains caused by:

  • Tobacco.
  • Commonly consumed foods and drinks such as coffee, red wine, and dark-colored fruits and vegetables can cause staining on our teeth.
  • Aging. As time goes on, our teeth can begin to appear discolored with shades ranging from yellow, gray, green to brown.

What stains are resistant to over-the-counter teeth whitening products?

Despite its effectiveness, certain types of teeth stains are stubborn and difficult to eliminate even with the use of teeth whitening products. Some examples of these stubborn stains include:

  • Internal discoloration caused by tooth trauma. 
  • Discoloration due to fluorosis.
  • Inorganic stains.
  • Discoloration caused by any form of internal tooth damage.

Are over-the-counter teeth whitening products as effective as in-office or at-home procedures?

Over-the-counter teeth whitening
Over-the-counter teeth whitening

The American Dental Association recognizes over-the-counter whitening strips as a valid method for teeth whitening. These strips contain a lower amount of carbamide or hydrogen peroxide, making them safe for non-professional use. 

Although these kits are effective in removing some level of stains and brightening teeth, the results are typically less significant than those obtained through take-home or in-office treatments which contain a higher concentration of bleaching agents. Some kits even come with an activation light to boost the gel’s effectiveness.

While over-the-counter teeth whitening strips are a popular choice, they may not be the best option for those with crooked, slanted or overlapping teeth. The strips may not be able to effectively reach all areas of the enamel, resulting in uneven white patches that can look worse than the original discoloration. This is why straight teeth are ideal for these types of whitening products.

Observations for over-the-counter whitening products for teeth

While over-the-counter teeth whitening kits are a popular choice for those seeking a brighter smile, it’s important to understand that results may vary. Factors like age, lifestyle habits, and the severity of staining can all impact the effectiveness of the treatment. Multiple bleaching sessions may be necessary to achieve desired results.

While bleaching can provide noticeable results, it is important to understand that it is not a permanent solution. However, there are several ways to maintain your new brighter smile and extend the amount of time between bleaching sessions. By avoiding certain substances such as nicotine, red wine, and tannin-rich foods, you can help prevent staining and keep your smile looking its best.

Are over-the-counter teeth whitening kits right for me?

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Not all patients are suitable for at-home teeth whitening. Some factors that may disqualify patients from this treatment include but are not limited to:

  • Patients who, as a result of age, have teeth that have become translucent.
  • Patients with severe or persistent staining, as bleaching is unlikely to address these issues.
  • Patients with a peroxide sensitivity.
  • Those who have extremely sensitive gums or teeth may be affected by the whitening solution’s ingredients.
  • Women who are nursing or pregnant. The impact of whitening chemicals on unborn or breastfeeding newborns hasn’t received adequate study.

If you have any questions, go to your dentist, who can help you determine whether you are a good candidate for teeth whitening.

Over-the-counter teeth whitening process

STEP 1: Brush and Floss

To maximize the effectiveness of whitening strips, it’s important to have clean teeth. Prior to applying the strips, brush with fluoride-free toothpaste and floss to remove any debris between your teeth. These steps will help the gel to absorb more quickly into the enamel and allow the treatment to work faster and more effectively.

STEP 2: Remove the protector

To use whitening strips, start by removing the stick-on protector and placing the strip on the front teeth for a specific amount of time. The waiting time may vary depending on the brand and the concentration of the bleaching agent. Higher percentages of bleaching agents require shorter waiting times to avoid side effects like enamel erosion, while lower percentages require longer waiting times. Most brands recommend leaving the strips on for 30 minutes, but this can range from 5 to 45 minutes.

STEP 3: Place on front teeth

To use whitening strips, carefully apply the strip on the front teeth and ensure that the gel doesn’t come in contact with your gums or other parts of your mouth. It’s crucial to be cautious while using them. Some strip kits also include blue LED light to secure the gel, which is an additional step after placing the strip. Wait for the recommended time mentioned in the product instructions before removing the strip.

STEP 4: Remove the strip and wash up

After the recommended time has passed, remove the strip gently and rinse your mouth. Wait for 10-15 minutes before brushing your teeth. Brushing and rinsing will not affect the results of the treatment.

Take-home teeth whitening kits have varying procedures depending on the brand you choose. Typically, they include pre-loaded bleaching strips or compounds that are applied to the teeth and left for a specific time. Some kits may use a special light to speed up the process. After rinsing your mouth, you can assess the results of the treatment.

How do I use a teeth-whitening pen?

Teeth whitening pens are a newer addition to the range of over-the-counter whitening products available. They are designed to be more convenient than other options as they come in the form of a pen. Most brands offer pens with twistable backs to control the amount of bleach applied to the teeth. These pens contain low concentrations of Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, just like other whitening products. They can be found in drugstores and supermarkets.

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STEP 1: Start with brushing your teeth

To ensure maximum effectiveness of the whitening pen, it is important to first brush and floss your teeth. Use a soft-bristled brush and non-fluoride toothpaste to clean your teeth. Wait for 5 minutes before applying the whitening pen.

STEP 2: Twist the back 

To use a whitening pen, remove it from its packaging and twist the back end until the gel is dispensed. Typically, twisting the pen twice is enough for one application. Before applying the gel, ensure that your teeth are completely dry.

STEP 3: Apply on the front teeth

To apply the gel, gently move the pen in circular motions across the front teeth. Take care not to spill the gel, and ensure that each tooth and the spaces between them are fully covered.

STEP 4: Let it rest and don’t rinse

Once you have applied the whitening gel using the pen, it’s important to leave it on without rinsing or brushing. The gel requires some time to work effectively, ideally a few hours, and should not be disturbed during this period. It’s worth noting that whitening pens tend to be most effective on light yellow stains and may not work as well on brown or gray tones.

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Teeth Whitening Safety Tips

Here are some Teeth Whitening Safety Tips for you:

To ensure your safety, always read and follow the instructions carefully. Leaving the strips or gels on for longer than recommended can cause gum irritation and other complications. After whitening, it is best to avoid acidic drinks like soda or sports drinks for a few hours to safeguard your teeth.

To protect sensitive teeth, it’s important to take good care of your teeth and gums before and after whitening. If your teeth are already sensitive, talk to your dentist before starting any whitening treatment. Gel-filled trays can also cause gum irritation if they don’t fit properly, so it’s important to stop using the product if you experience discomfort. Always follow the directions and don’t leave the product on for longer than recommended to avoid any potential problems.

It’s important not to exceed the recommended usage of teeth whitening products. If you achieve the desired result by following the instructions, a monthly touch-up session is typically sufficient. Once you have reached the desired shade, you can reduce the frequency of bleaching sessions to twice a year or less to maintain the results. Overdoing it can cause damage to your teeth and gums, so it’s crucial to follow the guidelines provided by the product.

How to prepare for teeth whitening?

So, How to prepare for teeth whitening?. Before dental office teeth whitening, protective gear is necessary to ensure that the bleaching agents used do not come into contact with the gums and other parts of the mouth. This may include cheek retractors, gauzes, and liquid dams. However, for other types of whitening treatments, thorough brushing and flossing beforehand can improve the effectiveness of the substances. For those with sensitive teeth, using a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste, as well as opting for products with low concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, can also help prepare for the treatment.

Questions to consider before whitening your teeth

To ensure a positive outcome from a dental procedure, it’s important to have a thorough conversation with your dentist beforehand. Clear communication and sharing your expectations can prevent any misunderstandings between you and your dentist. When considering teeth whitening, it’s important to discuss the shade of white that would be suitable for you and the number of teeth you want to whiten. Additionally, it’s important to inform your dentist if you have any dental restorations like veneers, implants, or crowns, as these may not whiten as well as your natural teeth. A consultation with your dentist can provide more information on your options and help you make an informed decision.

What happens if someone has sensitive teeth prior to teeth whitening?

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For individuals with pre-existing tooth sensitivity, it is important to consult with a dentist prior to undergoing any whitening treatment. The dentist may recommend using sensitivity toothpaste before the procedure and avoiding extremely hot or cold foods or drinks afterwards. In addition, the dentist may perform a bleaching test on a single tooth to evaluate how it reacts before proceeding with the full treatment. It is crucial for the dentist to assess if the whitening treatment is suitable for the patient’s individual needs and condition.



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