A 2013 survey of 5,500 unmarried adults asked them to rank the qualities by which they judge the opposite sex on first meeting someone new. Teeth was the highest ranked characteristic by a long shot (58% of men and 71% of women ranked it the #1 feature by which they judge a member of the opposite sex for attractiveness). Americans spend $1.4 billion on teeth whitening products. (Click here to see this and other interesting statistics about teeth whitening from research conducted by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.) Globally, teeth whitening is a $3.2 billion industry. If you are on social media, you have probably seen at least one DIY whitening trend. Teeth whitening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to improve a smile.
What is Teeth Whitening?
Teeth whitening is any process that causes the teeth to appear whiter in color. This can involve two different processes: 1) the removal of surface stains and polishing of the teeth and 2) chemically bleaching the teeth with peroxide agents. The removal of surface stains and polishing of the teeth is the mechanism of action used by whitening toothpastes and all of the DIY whitening trends you see on Instagram and Pinterest. This is accomplished by the use of abrasive compounds to polish the outer surface of enamel and remove superficial stains like coffee, tea and red wine.
The risks associated with this type of teeth whitening is the removal of enamel or exposed root surfaces. This risk is the main concern that dentists have with DIY whitening trends: they can cause irreversible loss of tooth structure. Teeth will initially appear whiter, and as the abrasion continues and enamel becomes thinner, the underlying dentin will begin to show through, making the teeth look darker over time.
The best way to lessen this risk is to use whitening toothpastes with the American Dental Association’s seal of approval because their abrasivity has been tested and confirmed to be safe for tooth structure. Also, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a whitening toothpaste.
Teeth whitening can also involve bleaching the enamel and underlying dentin tooth structure with chemical compounds containing peroxides. Because bleaching the teeth does not remove any tooth structure, it can actually be safer for your teeth. Many over-the-counter products contain peroxide chemicals for bleaching and are safe when used as instructed. This blog will address the professional whitening options offered at Prosper Family Dentistry, all of which are bleaching agents containing peroxides.
Hydrogen Peroxide vs. Carbamide Peroxide
The two possible whitening ingredients in professional teeth bleaching agents are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. Because carbamide peroxide breaks down into hydrogen peroxide, they are virtually the same. There are two minor differences that may factor into the decision on which product to use: 1) Hydrogen peroxide shows an initially quicker whitening effect, which then plateaus so that the final whitening result is the same for both hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. 2) Carbamide peroxide has a slightly longer shelf life. This is important for take-home whitening gels that you may use on a less frequent basis.
Option #1: Professional Whitening Gel in Custom Trays
Teeth whitening using custom trays and a bleaching gel is considered the “gold standard” in teeth whitening. It is the most customizable and controlled option available in teeth whitening. Professional Teeth Whitening Gel is available in many concentrations; we offer various concentrations in our practice.
- Once made, the custom trays will last for years. The only reason you would need new ones is a major change in the shape of your teeth (for example, significant dental work or orthodontics). This allows you to purchase refill kits of bleaching gel for continued whitening at a much lower cost than the initial investment.
- You choose which teeth to whiten and when. Easily customized to get the best result with the least amount of gel.
- Greater variety of concentrations of the gels = greater versatility of whitening (anywhere from 15 minutes to 9 hours/overnight).
- Whitening can be done any time for maintenance of a bright, white smile.
- Carbamide peroxide is the main ingredient, which increases its shelf life.
- Contains potassium nitrate (desensitizes the teeth) and fluoride (strengthens enamel).
- Very inexpensive after the initial investment for the custom trays.
- Impressions of your mouth are necessary to fabricate a mold of your teeth, on which the custom tray is made.
- About 1 week lab time before you can begin whitening.
- Results are not immediate; typically, whiter teeth are noticed after 3-4 days of whitening.
- Properly loading the gel into the trays requires some manual dexterity.
Option #2: In-Office Whitening
In-Office Whitening is the way to go for an instantly whiter and brighter smile. This option gives you instant gratification and is perfect for an upcoming special event or for those people who just do not have time for at-home whitening. In one session of in-office whitening, you will achieve the same results you would get with multiple days of whitening your teeth through the first two methods of at-home whitening. Basically, we do all the work for you! Most in-office whitening treatments are a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide gel, which means it is strong and works fast.
- Instant results! Your teeth are visibly whiter in one hour.
- Customizable: Your dentist or hygienist can apply different amounts of gel to different teeth, if they are not all the same color. They can also protect sensitive areas of gum recession and avoid using the gel on dental work.
- Chemically activated: no light needed.
- Most expensive option.
- Requires a scheduled appointment with your dentist or hygienist.
- Increased risk of irritation of the gums or tooth sensitivity due to its high concentration.
- Some maintenance may be required if you frequently drink beverages with a high probability of staining your teeth (coffee, tea, red wine).
Interested in whitening your teeth?
Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell to set up a teeth whitening consultation. They will discuss the various options available and help you decide which is right for you!