Over-the-Counter Teeth Whiteners: Do They Really Work?

Many people are interested in sprucing up their smiles for the holidays.  While you may not have time to get in to see your dentist for professional whitening, you can always grab something from the dental care aisle at the grocery or drugstore. The question is: Do they really work?

What Works

There are two different categories of over-the-counter products that will brighten your smile.  As we describe each, we’ll include the things you need to look for.

  1. Whitening Toothpastes

Whitening toothpastes do brighten a smile by polishing away superficial stains from dark foods, drinks and other habits.  They do not actually change your tooth color, but they do remove an outer layer of stain, which leads to a whiter appearance.  Whitening toothpastes work by using tiny abrasive particles to scrub and polish the surface of enamel (kind of like fine sandpaper).

The important thing to look for on a whitening toothpaste’s packaging is the Seal of Acceptance from the American Dental Association.  This means it has been tested and proven safe for daily use.  Whitening toothpastes without this seal could be too abrasive and actually remove healthy tooth structure.

Whitening toothpastes produce the best result when used with an electric toothbrush!

  1. Teeth Whiteners

Teeth whiteners are products applied directly to the teeth to change the overall color of the tooth.  Whitening products come in a wide range of application types, including gels, strips, swabs and paintbrushes.  The method of application does have an effect on the outcome, but more important than the method of application is the active ingredient.

Only whitening products containing hydrogen peroxide or its close relative carbamide peroxide actually penetrate tooth enamel to break down darkly colored compounds within a tooth.

How Teeth Whitening Works

It takes time for the peroxide chemicals to do their magic.  This is why the method of application matters.  “Instant” and “teeth whitening” don’t really go together.  Mouthwashes containing hydrogen peroxide don’t effectively whiten teeth because you can’t possibly swish it around your teeth long enough to allow it to work.

It is necessary to have a carrier (a mouth tray or strip) to hold the whitening product in contact with your teeth for at least 15-20 minutes in order to allow the peroxides to work.  It takes 10-14 days of whitening every day to achieve noticeable results.

What Doesn’t Work

You may have figured it out from all the information above, but here we will spell out which products that you will not produce noticeable teeth whitening results.  Read the labels carefully so you can discern which ones are worth your money.

  • Teeth whiteners claiming to be “Peroxide-Free”
  • Teeth whitening products instructing use for less than 5 minutes.
  • Oil pulling – we have nothing against oil pulling. It just is not effective at whitening the teeth.

More Questions about Teeth Whitening?

Call 940-382-1750 to schedule a visit with Dr. Chowning.  He can answer any specific questions you have about teeth whitening and give you personalized recommendations that will help you achieve your desired smile goals.

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