While many people want to have pearly white teeth, not every patient is a candidate for in-office teeth whitening. For those with issues like sensitivity, over-the-counter products can be more beneficial. Professional guidance is recommended to ensure the treatments do not cause tooth damage or result in pain.
Whitening treatments can reduce the gradual yellowing of enamel from coffee, wine and other foods. Ease of use and a wide range of options have turned this treatment into the most popular cosmetic dental procedure.
However, patients left to their own devices can do too much too soon, resulting in heightened sensitivity, pain, damage and risk for tooth fractures, enamel loss, etching and staining. Before starting an at-home teeth whitening solution, review the following details with your dentist.
Safe At-Home Teeth Whitening Methods
There are two main types of at-home teeth whitening methods: Over-the-counter products and DIY solutions. Over-the-counter methods are typically made with a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide, which reduces the risk of tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. As such, results may take longer to appear but the treatment will be gentler and more manageable.
Of all the available teeth whitening methods, your dentist may recommend using:
- Whitening Strips: The strips shape to your teeth, delivering a small amount of hydrogen peroxide.
- Whitening Toothpaste: This product is used like regular toothpaste but contains a low percentage of hydrogen or carbamide peroxide. It may be recommended for once weekly or everyday use.
- Whitening Rinse: Similar to regular mouthwash, this product contains a small percentage of hydrogen peroxide but you swish it around for a minimum of 60 seconds.
- Baking Soda: This leavening agent can help remove stains when used on its own in moderation.
- Whitening Trays: This solution can be purchased over the counter or custom fitted by your dentist. The latter is preferred, as a poorly fitting tray can irritate your gums. Your dentist will make an impression before providing you a custom-shaped tray for applying a hydrogen peroxide gel. Unlike with other solutions, this product is left on for two to four hours each night and should only be used temporarily.
Along with recommending products, your dentist can offer guidance to correctly use them. For instance, avoid anything that contains 10-percent or higher hydrogen or carbamide peroxide, as this can increase risk for irritation. Products for at-home use should contain 3.5 or less of this bleaching agent.
Your dentist will also check your teeth for issues like cavities and cracks, as at-home tooth whitening products can irritate these issues.
It can take several weeks to months before you notice the effects of an at-home whitening product. In the meantime, your dentist will instruct you on foods and habits to avoid, so your efforts are not counterproductive.
Eat foods that strengthen or protect your teeth, including spinach, lettuce, celery, nuts and dairy. Your hygiene routine should lessen potential discoloration, such as brushing after you have foods that stain.
You’ll also be provided a list of foods and beverages to avoid or consume in moderation, including:
- Anything acidic, including citrus, tomatoes and coffee. This includes pasta sauce.
- Berries, including jellies and jams, which can leave dark stain on your teeth.
- Tea, particularly black tea. However, even green tea can gradually stain your teeth.
- Red and white wines, which can stain teeth or exacerbate existing damage.
Methods to Avoid
Your dentist will also cover DIY whitening methods to completely avoid, as they can accelerate damage or increase irritation and pain. These include:
- Lemon and Baking Soda: Due to their acidic nature, lemon and other citrus juices can eat away at enamel. While you might initially see a lightening effect when combined with baking soda, this method can lead to damage, staining and results won’t last.
- Charcoal: Another social media-fueled whitening phenomenon, activated charcoal has abrasive properties that can damage enamel and accelerate tooth erosion.
- Apple Cider Vinegar and Salt: This type of vinegar has an acidic pH, so using it with an abrasive like salt can lead to long-term damage and sensitivity.
To learn more about effective options for teeth whitening, contact us today!