Whiten up! Do at-home teeth whitners work
Q. Which is more effective – getting your teeth professionally bleached, or using over-the-counter products?
A. Whitening, toothpaste actually doesn’t work that well. It takes time – at least a month or two – before you’ll notice even minor results, because the whitening agents in over – the – counter products are on the weak side: Using them is probably more like just getting a good cleaning at the dentist’s. And some whitening toothpastes reduce stains with harsh abrasives, which can be harmful to teeth.
Dental professional don’t think much of over-the-counter bleaching products – they come with bleaching trays that you place on your upper and lower teeth and bleaching gels (which taste pretty icky). In fact, these products could damage your teeth and gums.
That’s because bleaching trays should be custom-fitted to the margins of the gum line, which only a professional can really do right. What’s more, if your teeth are ultrasensitive, it may mean you have exposed root surfaces, leaky filling, decay or cracks in your teeth that you may not even be aware of. Applying the whiteners on these sensitive surfaces could really hurt.
Teens also tend to have more sensitive teeth than adults, so even if you don’t have dental problems, you still run the risk of experiencing pain if you bleach your teeth at home. And, whitening won’t help with colored fillings or dental crowns, or with teeth that are grayish or dulled from taking the antibiotic tetracycline.
This is why it’s really better to have your teeth bleached under the supervision of your dentist. But this can cost between $200 and $500 and may not be covered by your insurance. However, a dentist can determine whether you’re a good candidate for whitening and will also know how to work around any sensitivity, such as altering the time frame in which the bleaching agents are used. Also, she or he can treat the areas in your mouth that might cause problems before or after the whitening process.