At-home whitening kits have come a long way. You can find all kinds of DIY treatments online or at the drugstore, from portable pens to light-up LED devices. But they don’t always work as advertised, and patients often find themselves disappointed with the results. Fortunately, your family dentist has excellent options if over-the-counter treatments don’t work for you.
Why Do My Teeth Get Dingy, Yellow, or Discolored?
Our teeth tend to get discolored as we get older. Staining is related to lifestyle choices, including tobacco use and what we eat and drink. But discoloration also results from aging and genetics.
- Smoking and tobacco use are among the most significant causes of yellowing and discoloration.
- Your food and beverage choices also play a role. Coffee and tea are big offenders. Sodas (including diet), red wine, and some foods like tomato sauce can also stain teeth.
- Many medications, including specific antibiotics, can cause intrinsic staining.
- Past or ongoing health conditions, including infections, can lead to discoloration.
- Age can make your teeth appear yellow or darker. Your enamel wears away as you age, reducing the pearly white shine.
- Genetics is a significant factor. Some individuals have hereditary conditions that lead to discolored teeth. On the flip side, some people are born with thicker, whiter enamel than others.
How Can I Avoid Stained Teeth?
While not all discoloration is avoidable, you can take steps to avoid staining and protect your enamel.
- Avoid smoking and other tobacco products.
- Drink plenty of water. It washes away food particles and stimulates saliva production, protecting your enamel.
- Brush twice daily with ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste and talk with your dentist about using a therapeutic mouth rinse for extra protection.
- Pay attention to what you eat and drink. Avoid or limit staining foods and beverages.
If you want to take additional steps to whiten your teeth, talk with your dentist about whitening toothpaste and mouth rinses or explore at-home or in-office whitening treatments.
What Are My At-Home Whitening Options?
Consumers have more at-home whitening options than ever–at various prices. Most drugstore kits use the same products your dentist uses at much lower levels: carbamide or hydrogen peroxide. Over-the-counter products can work well on mild stains and maintain an already bright smile. At-home options include:
- Whitening strips contain a bleaching agent on a thin strip of plastic. They’re easy to use and inexpensive for short-term whitening.
- Whitening pens have been on the rise in the last few years. Consumers can brush the whitening product across the surface of their teeth, much like painting on nail polish. They’re gaining popularity because they’re portable and inexpensive.
- Over-the-counter tray systems use a one-size tray that molds to your teeth with a peroxide gel. It’s important not to get whitening products on your gums or leave the trays in place too long.
- LED whitening products are trending. Consumers apply a whitening agent and then use an LED device to create a chemical reaction. LED systems are more expensive than drugstore whitening products, up to $150 or more. You need to use these kits every day for several weeks for the best results.
What If I Don’t Get Results from At-Home Whitening Kits?
Some of us get the results we want from at-home kits, but they don’t work for everyone. Here are some reasons why:
- Less peroxide means less dramatic results. Most at-home products contain around 8 to 10 percent peroxide, while dentists can safely use significantly higher concentrations.
- Drugstore products don’t work on cosmetic dentistry treatments like bonding and veneers.
- You can get uneven results (especially with whitening pens) if you misapply OTC products.
- OTC whitening products can hurt your gums and teeth if you misuse them or leave them on too long.
Check with your dentist before trying over-the-counter products. Your dentist can recommend products that will meet your needs while protecting your gums and enamel.
What Are The Benefits Of In-Office Whitening?
Your family dentist has the skills and tools to use more concentrated professional bleaching products. Your dentist can use products with up to 40 percent peroxide offering dramatic results on the first visit. Your dentist uses a special device to protect your mouth and gums from the chemicals. We also use ultraviolet light systems to speed up the process. Most treatments at your dentist’s office take 30 to 45 minutes. At Greenhill Family Dental Care, our providers offer a range of cosmetic treatments, including the high-tech Zoom! whitening system, which safely and effectively lightens teeth up to 14 shades. Our dentists may recommend veneers or porcelain crowns for a long-lasting smile makeover if you have severe discoloration, intrinsic staining or other imperfections. Talk with your dentist about your goals and budget, and we’ll find the best approach for you.