For his 2004 role in Finding Neverland, Johnny Depp (41 at the time) needed to look younger. His makeup artist credited one simple trick for his youthful transformation: Teeth whitening. Beyond making you look younger, white teeth are a sign of health, happiness, success and social status. According to an American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry survey, 74% of adults feel an unattractive smile can hurt a person’s chance for career success. And when respondents were asked what they’d like to improve most about their smile, the most common response was: whiter and brighter teeth.
Not long ago, you needed to visit your dentist for teeth whitening treatments but a stroll down the market’s toothpaste aisle reveals a plethora of home teeth whitening options at varying price points. Which option is best for you? It depends on how bad your teeth look and how quickly you want them whitened.
Pros and Cons of Teeth Whitening Options
In-Office Whitening: Professional teeth whitening in a dental office is safe, extremely effective, and can transform teeth in a single office visit. Your teeth can literally brighten up to 10 shades in about an hour. In-office whitening affects only the front eight teeth and is a great jump start for a professional take-home whitening kit, which you get from your dentist. Your dentist is best qualified to handle any issues that may arise from whitening treatments, such as tooth sensitivity. Most tooth sensitivity cases are easily managed. Professional teeth whitening can last for one or more years, depending on how well you take care of your teeth, and if you’re following up regularly with a take-home whitening product for regular maintenance.
Tray-Based Teeth Whiteners: Tray-based teeth whitening systems, purchased either over-the-counter or from your dentist, involve filling a mouth guard-like tray with a gel whitening solution which contains a peroxide-bleaching agent. The tray is worn for a period of time, generally from a couple of hours a day to every day during the night for up to four weeks and even longer (depending on the degree of discoloration and desired level of whitening). The advantage of getting the tray from your dentist is that you’ll be sure it is custom-molded to fit your teeth. Ill-fitting trays allow the whitener to seep into your mouth, making it less effective, as well as risking gum damage and stomach irritation. Only your dentist can be sure that your trays fit your mouth correctly.
Over-the-Counter Whitening Strips and Gels: For between $30 and $50, you can buy a home-based whitening kit at your local drug store. The options are dizzying and it’s hard to discern which type will work best. For the high-end versions of both whitening strips and gels, you can see a difference in a few days and, if you follow the 14 day program correctly, it should last about 4 months. While the price is good, home whitening takes much longer than a professional treatment, the results don’t last as long, and it would not be a good choice for someone with very discolored teeth.
Whitening Toothpastes: Switching to a whitening toothpaste is easy and low-cost. The results are minimal, so it’s not a good option if you need to brighten more than one shade. Look for a brand that contains hydrogen peroxide. To whiten a shade, it takes about one week.
Whitening Rinses: Among the newest whitening products available are whitening rinses. Like most mouthwashes, they freshen breath and help reduce dental plaque and gum disease. But these products also include hydrogen peroxide, which whitens teeth. Manufacturers say it may take 12 weeks to see results; however, dental experts say that rinses may not be as effective as other over-the-counter whitening products, because the whitening rinse is only in contact with the teeth for a short time.
For many decades, Americans have been obsessed with having a picture-perfect smile complete with bright pearly whites. While over-the-counter tooth whitening products are available, dentist-supervised tooth whitening remains the safest, most effective method for brightening your smile.