Teeth whitening is an increasingly popular dental procedure. More dentists offer it than ever before, and over the last 20 years, it has become the most common cosmetic dental service in the US. There are good reasons for this: in-office dental whitening is a safe and effective way to improve the appearance of the teeth. Brighter, whiter teeth can do many things, including boosting self-confidence and overall quality of life. Just as professional teeth whitening services have become more popular, so have their over-the-counter equivalents. So–how do these stack up? How do over-the-counter kits work, and are they safe and effective? Let’s take a look to help you understand this option for your teeth whitening needs.
Both professional teeth whitening and over-the-counter kits work in roughly the same way: a chemical bleaching agent is applied to the teeth for a set amount of time, and then removed and cleaned away. This lifts stains and discoloration out of the enamel and leaves teeth whiter, brighter, and healthier looking. However, at-home kits and professional teeth whitening treatments happen a bit differently in practice. At-home kits tend to work as follows: whitening strips or a gel tray are applied to the teeth at home from a generic over-the-counter kit, and the in-box instructions tell you how long to leave them in place. By contrast, an in-office professional treatment involves a brief exam to determine your individual needs and then an oral health professional selecting the right product and treatment for you. A professional, in-office teeth whitening treatment generally takes about an hour, and the results are visible immediately. In some cases, you may need to return for additional treatments to fully remove staining or discoloration.
So, back to the central question: is at-home teeth whitening the best choice for you? As with many dental treatments, there are some pros and cons to consider before going out and buying at at-home teeth whitening kit:
- Pro: May be more affordable, and are certainly widely available in most places.
- Pro: Let you apply the treatment at home, at your convenience.
- Pro: Can be used as needed, without making additional appointments or worrying about what your insurance company might say.
- Pro: Are safe to use, and can deliver good results!
- Con: Some can be messy and difficult to apply.
- Con: Are not tailored to your needs, and don’t come with individual instruction on how to use them.
So with that list in front of us, should you opt for an at-home teeth whitening kit? The answer is a firm “maybe”, because a great deal depends on your individual situation, your overall dental health, and your goals. What we encourage you to do is to talk to your dentist during your next regularly scheduled exam and cleaning. They’ll be able to give you professional advice about teeth whitening, and help you address why your teeth may be discolored in the first place. Sometimes the best course of action is a lifestyle change: avoiding acidic or discoloring foods and beverages, spending more time on an effective brushing and flossing routine, and avoiding alcohol or tobacco. All of those behaviors can have an ongoing effect on your teeth, including causing discoloration, and are best limited or abandoned altogether for better dental health.
If it turns out that at-home teeth whitening is right for you, we’ll connect you with one of our at-home teeth whitening kits and give you advice and instruction on how to use it for best effect. While some DIY teeth whitening setups are clumsy to use, not all home teeth whitening kits are created equal. The kits we’ve selected are designed to give you professional-quality results in the safest, easiest to use, most convenient manner available–avoiding most of the “cons” of many over-the-counter teeth whitening kits–and we’ve found that our patients are happy with the results they achieve with them.
Whether you’re interested in knowing more about teeth whitening, concerned about some other aspect of your dental health, or it’s just time for a routine exam and cleaning, get in touch with us today. At Hickory Dental Care, we believe wholeheartedly in our motto: “Create a Smile, Change a Life” and we’re looking forward to helping you on your journey to the best possible smile!