What is the best way to achieve a whiter smile?

Q. I want  a bright white smile. What is the best way to achieve it? What is the difference between over the counter and professional whitening products? What route is best for me and my teeth?

A.  All whitening gels use derivatives of the same ingredients. The strongest whitening results can be obtained by the dentist using in-office whitening procedures: sometimes eight or more shades brighter in less than an hour.  The next strongest whitening regimens are given to you by your dentist to be used at home. Over-the-counter whitening products consist of lower concentrations of whitening agent and usually produce less dramatic results.

In order to have maximum effect on your teeth, the whitening product must equally cover your teeth. Because everybody has different sizes and shapes of teeth, it may be difficult for a generic stock tray to equally cover your teeth, especially if your teeth are crooked. The custom-made trays that are dispensed by your dentist hold the whitening product evenly on all your teeth.

An important fact to note is that whitening products will not change the color of veneers, crowns, and composite fillings.  If teeth whitening is planned, teeth should normally be whitened prior to completing any veneers, crowns, or fillings that will be visible.

Once you have achieved the look you desire, you will have to maintain your whitening results by periodically using whitening treatments at home as your teeth will naturally darken with age and staining from your diet.  Additionally, avoiding intensely colored beverages such as coffee, tea, wine, or orange juice can prolong the whitening results.

Although long term side effects are virtually nonexistent, whitening your teeth may cause transient tooth sensitivity or gum irritation. The higher the  concentration of the whitening products,the faster you’ll see results but the more potential there is for sensitivity. Some products have an added desensitizing agent that can minimize sensitivity.

Ultimately, which type of whitening is the best fit for you depends on how much whiter you’d like your teeth to be, how fast you want them to whiten, and what condition your teeth are in.  Your dentist would be happy to discuss the particulars of your case… so ask!

Do you have a dental question you’d like answered?  Mail your question to 4573 E. State Road 236, Middletown, IN 47356, email us at ask@titusdentistry.com, or click the link in the sidebar to submit your question… and watch this column for the answer!