There are three basic types of in-home whitening: toothpastes and mouthwashes, whitening strips, and gel trays. While whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes are the least expensive products on the market, they are also the least effective at creating noticeable change in the short-term. This is because they don’t have a significant amount of the active ingredients in most whitening products, which are hydrogen or carbamide peroxide. However, they are effective at removing surface stains. On the other hand, gel trays and whitening strips can produce some serious whitening in days or weeks.
Whitening strips are made from a flexible plastic material called polyethylene. Each strip is coated with hydrogen and/or carbamide peroxide and an adhesive to keep the strips in place. Hydrogen peroxide oxidizes as it comes in contact with your teeth, which bleaches teeth, making the surface whiter. Carbamide peroxide works the exact same way but has an acid that breaks up stains as well. Treatment times vary from brand to brand, but the average whitening strip package comes with 28 strips, for two weeks of whitening (one per night per row of teeth). Usually, the directions instruct you to wear the strips for about half an hour before going to bed. Most people who try whitening strips notice a significant improvement in the whiteness of their teeth. However, they are not effective on tetracycline (antibiotic) or fluorosis (fluoride poisoning) stains, and they will not change the color of dental restorations.
Gel Trays | Professional Whitening
Although they are more expensive, professional whitening treatments are much more effective, safer, and can usually be done in one or two office visits. Apart from in-office professional whitening, there are currently many gel tray whitening products that can be purchased over the counter. All of these products essentially use trays that are filled with a bleaching agent that removes stains on the teeth. Whether it’s at home or in the dental office, the basic process is the same: The teeth bleaching gel contains an ingredient that opens the pores in the tooth which allows the active bleaching agent to seep through these holes in the enamel into the dentin of the tooth. The oxygen molecules from the bleaching gel contacts the discolored particles latched to the tooth, which causes them to break away and exposes the tooth’s natural color. In some cases, an LED light works with a whitening gel as a catalyst to speed up the whitening reaction. One advantage of professional whitening in the dental office setting is our team can create a custom tray that perfectly fits your tooth structure and ensures the greatest possible whitening effect.
Everyday Tips for Naturally Whiter Teeth
Regular dental care through brushing and flossing remains your best tool for maintaining a brighter smile, in addition to its benefits of protecting against tooth decay and gum disease. This is especially effective when paired with dental-friendly diet and lifestyle choices. Many people realize that a whiter smile can be maintained by avoiding excessive contact with candy, coffee, tea (black teas can stain teeth worse than coffee), soft drinks, wine (both red and white have staining effects), tomato-based sauces, certain berries, and tobacco products. What many people don’t realize is that there are some tooth-friendly foods out there that will actually help you maintain a bright, healthy smile and can even naturally whiten your teeth. Here are just a few:
- Fruits such as apples and strawberries contain malic acid which removes surface stains from your teeth and whitens enamel. Strawberries are also beneficial in that they contain ellagitannins—antioxidants that are known to reduce stain-attracting bacteria and inflammation in your mouth. Additionally, apples—along with celery, carrots and pears—have a high water content. This increases production of saliva, which washes away stain-producing bacteria in the mouth.
- Pineapple is the only food that naturally contains bromelain. Guess where else we can find bromelain? In stain-removing toothpaste! Bromelain is a compound that has anti-inflammatory and cleansing properties and is effective in removing surface stains from your teeth, resulting in a brighter smile.
- Broccoli, seeds and nuts, and (yet again) apples, scrub your teeth and naturally remove bacteria and plaque. Eat these foods in the afternoons to clean and polish your teeth, giving them a brief midday brush. What’s more, broccoli is high in fiber and iron, resulting in a lower risk of inflammation in your mouth and greater protection against enamel-degrading acids produced by bacteria.
- Cheese and milk are full of calcium, which we all know is very good for teeth and bones. Calcium, as well as other minerals and proteins found in dairy products, protect tooth enamel from erosion and decay. They also don’t stain your teeth like coffee, wine, or beets would.
Here are a few more everyday tips to help you keep your teeth looking their brightest:
- If you are going to drink coffee, tea, or any other potentially teeth-staining beverage, limit how long they’re lingering in your mouth. It can be nice to really enjoy that first cup in the morning or to savor that great red wine you’re pairing with dinner, but swallowing quickly rather than sipping slowly can effectively mitigate the staining effects of these beverages.
- Brushing your teeth right after coffee, tea, soda, or wine can actually do harm to your tooth enamel, which could’ve been weakened by the acids from these drinks. Try first rinsing your mouth with water – which will neutralize some of the acidity from those beverage – before going on to brush. The same thing applies after you eat an acidic meal: rinsing first is always a good idea.
- Replace energy drinks – especially those containing sugars – with water for your workouts and activities.
- When possible, go with a straw (consider getting a reusable one) in your potentially stain-causing beverage. The delivery method of the straw ensures that hardly any of the liquid will come in contact with your teeth, especially your front teeth.
For more information on teeth whitening or to set up an appointment with one of our Bluffside Smiles dentists for a profession in-office or take-home whitening treatment, please call us at (608) 788-6939.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.