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Everything to Know Before Whitening Teeth

For some people, the pursuit of whiter teeth can be a bit of an obsession. From toothpastes and gums that promise to whiten while you use them to trendy all-natural treatments like charcoal and turmeric, it seems like people are willing to try just about anything. But while these treatments may not get the kind of results you’re hoping for, at least you’re not out a lot of money. The danger happens when patients begin investing tons of money into products like white strips, over-the-counter trays and those special lights you hold in your mouth to help accelerate whitening. Do these products work? And if they do, do they work as well as the treatment options available at your dentist’s office?


All-Natural Treatments

Anything all-natural can’t be a bad thing, right? Not necessarily so, says Dr. Stephen Hill, a dentist in Allen, Texas. While brushing your teeth with turmeric probably won’t hurt you (or help you, really), another natural product - charcoal toothpaste - might. Why? Because charcoal is an abrasive, and while it may make your teeth appear a little whiter, it can also permanently damage your tooth enamel.

Whitening Pastes and Gums

Whitening toothpastes and gums are a good idea in theory, but they aren’t as effective as a professional whitening. The good news is they won’t harm your teeth, and you still get all the benefits of brushing your teeth when you use that whitening paste. As for that whitening gum, you’d have to chew a whole lot before you’d ever notice any change in your tooth color, but chewing sugarless gum for 30 minutes after eating can help rinse away the bad bacteria that cause cavities. So even if you never chew enough whitening gum to notice a change, you’ll still get fresher breath and cleaner teeth in the process.

Over-the-Counter White Strips and Trays

The good news about over-the-counter white strips and bleaching trays is that many of them do work. The bad news is that for the amount of money you’ll invest in these products, you’re not going to get results as good as professional-grade products, and by the time you do get the equivalent results, you’ll probably have spent more than you would have with just one in-office treatment. That’s because even though in-office treatments use the same peroxide base in their bleach formula, dental professionals are able to get stronger, better-quality treatments than those available directly to the consumer.

Mall Kiosks or Salon Whitening Treatments

You may have seen booths for procedures like Zoom whitening at your local mall or hair salon. Initially these probably seem like a great idea - after all, it’s the same procedure many dentists offer, but often at a sizable savings. 

But have you ever wondered why these businesses can offer such a low price on these services? Well, it’s because they very often don’t know what they’re doing. They’re not members of any professional dental organizations, so they don’t have to pay membership dues. They aren’t medical practices, so they don’t need malpractice insurance. They don't have a medical or dental license, so they don’t need to renew it, or to attend continuing education training courses to keep their license valid, and they can’t buy the best-quality ingredients to use in these procedures, because they’re not licensed doctors.  

That’s because the chemicals used in tooth whitening can cause serious burns to the gums if not applied properly. When applied by someone who has no idea what they’re doing, the chance of that happening is high. And what happens if you do get a chemical burn at a hair salon or a mall kiosk? Who will write your prescription for antibiotics and pain medication, or see you for a followup to monitor the healing process?  

The short answer? Your dentist, to whom you should have gone for the whitening in the first place!

In-Office Whitening or Veneers

The absolute best and safest way to whiten your teeth is to go through your dentist. Whether you choose a Zoom procedure, take-home trays or veneers, your dentist can provide the safest and most effective whitening ingredients available, and when you do it right the first time, you don’t have to keep spending money in pursuit of great results.

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