Health

At Home or At the Dentist: What’s the Best Way to Whiten Teeth?

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A bright, healthy smile will only boost your confidence and positively impact your life. But what’s the best way to go about whitening your teeth?

There are basically two ways to bleach your teeth—inexpensive OTC (over-the-counter) options and professional options only available through a dentist. It’s not all down to cost. Each method has pros and cons.

Why Teeth Need Whitening

Teeth discoloration can happen for a number of reasons. While we commonly associate yellowed teeth with environmental factors like coffee, tea, and smoking, genetics and aging also play roles. Some tooth discoloration can be a side effect of certain medications. No matter the cause, most people simply want a healthy, white smile.

Option 1: Whitening at Home

In the age of DIY everything, many people like the idea of whitening their teeth without needing to schedule a separate appointment at the dentist.

Over-the-counter options range from whitening toothpastes, strips applied to teeth, and trays filled with a whitening gel that you wear over your teeth. Each of these methods works to varying degrees, so it’s best to consider the outcome you’re expecting. For example, mild staining due to dark liquids like coffee and tea will likely improve with whitening toothpaste, but these methods will not counteract heavy smoking.

You can also make sure that you are using the at-home treatments correctly. While many strips and trays come as a one-size-fits-all, overuse or improper fitting can lead to gum irritation and swelling. Ignoring these side effects is one of the biggest mistakes of at-home teeth whitening.

Pros:

  • Cost-effective
  • Easy to access
  • Can start at any time

Cons:

  • Won’t remove deep staining
  • Takes longer to see results
  • Can cause painful side effects if used incorrectly

Option 2: Whitening at the Dentist

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Dentists will recommend that you start by having an exam to determine which method will work best to whiten your teeth. It’s a good idea to get a check-up to be sure there are no underlying problems that may prevent the results you’re hoping for. A dentist will be able to use stronger whitening agents than those available OTC. There are special teeth whitening systems that use heat and light to brighten teeth in a shorter amount of time. For example, ZOOM! teeth whitening advertises patients can see their teeth become eight shades brighter in just 45 minutes.

Unfortunately, because this is an elective cosmetic procedure, many dental insurance programs will not cover the cost. Keep in mind, too, that the effects will wear off, especially if you return to the same lifestyle habits that contributed to the staining in the first place.

Pros:

  • Personalized care
  • Stronger whitening methods
  • Faster results

Cons:

  • Requires an extra appointment
  • Less flexible
  • More expensive

Final Considerations

It’s always a good idea to speak to a dental professional to find the best teeth whitening option for your particular situation. Tooth discoloration has many different causes, and to find the proper tooth whitening solution, you have to understand the problem first. OTC options can often address environmental factors, but deeper causes will require in-office procedures to see noticeable results.

Teeth whitening is not permanent and may require continued treatments and visits. The best teeth whitening solution is proper dental hygiene and regular dental cleanings. Regular cleaning, brushing, and flossing your teeth, and going to your dentist every six months are the best things you can to do to eliminate the signs of discoloration.

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