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Everything You Need To Know About Teeth Whitening

Updated: Jul 20

Person at dentist smiling with teeth whitening | CARRAWAY FAMILY AND COSMETIC DENTISTRY

Everyone wants a beautiful smile. Of course, some people are naturally endowed with a beautiful smile, but that smile can be dull if you don't have the right dental formula to complement it. Drinking coffee, red wine, smoking, certain drugs, poor dental hygiene, old age, and diseases are some common factors that may deny you a white, dazzling smile. This is where teeth whitening comes in.

In this era of technology, anything is possible, and you can get your natural, bright smile back through teeth whitening. To show just how much Americans value teeth whitening, statistics show that many spent at least 2 billion annually on cosmetic dentistry to maintain that bright smile.

If you're looking to give your teeth a new makeover, you're in the right place. Here, we're going to explain everything you need to know about tooth whitening and which options you can choose to reclaim your natural smile back.

Is Tooth Whitening And Bleaching The Same?

Teeth whitening and bleaching are often used interchangeably in cosmetic dentistry to define the process of making teeth look brighter than they are. The procedure can be done in two different ways: bleaching and using non-bleaching products.

Although teeth whitening and bleaching are considered the same, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that bleaching is only applicable where a product contains bleaching agents. Otherwise, a product used to remove food stains from the teeth without bleach is referred to as whitening.

The difference between bleaching and teeth whitening is that teeth bleaching products contain either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These ingredients can whiten the teeth beyond their natural shade, removing deep stains to give extra brightness.

Active Ingredients In Bleaching Products

The two main active ingredients in teeth bleaching products are hydrogen and carbamide peroxide. These can be purchased at the drugstore or provided by the dentist. However, the bleaching products prescribed by the dentist can be more effective than those you can purchase over the counter at your local drug store.

These teeth bleaching products contain around 45 percent peroxide than over-the-counter products, containing only 10 percent peroxide. Additional ingredients contained in these teeth cleaning products are sodium hydroxide, carbopol, glycerine, and flavorings.

Although these products are generally safe with little to no side effects, the American Food and Drug Administration recommends that people who want to bleach their teeth should consult with their dentist before performing the procedure.

This is because some people may develop allergic reactions to peroxide and other agents contained in bleaching products. A dentist is better placed to recommend the right products, procedures, and follow-ups to ensure no contraindications.

How Tooth Whitening Works

Some people prefer to purchase over-the-counter products and whiten their teeth at home. This may be due to a lack of adequate finances or good dental insurance. However, this practice is highly discouraged because teeth cleaning is a delicate procedure that should be done by a professional. Professional teeth cleaning is a short procedure that can take less than two hours if done at the dentist's clinic.

Part of the procedure involves applying a tooth whitening gel that contains around 20-45 percent of hydrogen peroxide. A special heating lamp is aimed at the teeth at 20 minutes intervals, and the gel is reapplied between those intervals. Your dentist may also use a laser to speed up the whitening process.

To keep the gel from getting to your lips, tongue, and gums, a protective barrier may be used, so the gel stays only on your teeth. For best results, your dentist will provide you with whitening trays to help you do follow-ups at home and ensure an effective bleach solution.

On average, custom-made whitening trays can cost around $300-$400, while complete teeth cleaning treatment can cost around $500. With a good dental cover, you don't need to risk your dental health by doing DIY teeth cleaning procedures at home.


Tooth Whitening Toothpaste Versus Bleaching

There's a misconception that tooth whitening toothpaste is the same as bleaching. However, as we have already noted, bleaching products contain peroxide and other ingredients, and the procedure for using these products is also different.

On the other hand, tooth whitening toothpaste contains aluminum oxide, baking soda, calcium carbonate, and silica. All these are effective stain removing abrasives which are more mild compared to peroxide, which is not contained in whitening toothpaste.

However, the active ingredients in tooth whitening toothpaste contain additional super effective chemicals and offer extra polishing. But whitening toothpaste can only make your teeth a few shades lighter than if you opted for professional teeth whitening from your dentist. Therefore, it is ideal for people with mildly discolored teeth.

However, if you choose to use tooth whitening toothpaste, cosmetic dentists in Greer, SC, recommend products with the ADA seal, which have been proven to be both safe and effective.

Using Crest White Stripes

Another option for cleaning your discolored teeth is by using white crest strips. This option is more popular with mild teeth stains and is perfect for a quick, less expensive procedure. White stripes are made of thin plastic that contains a minimal amount of tooth-bleaching agents.

When you wear the strips, they easily take the shape of your teeth, and you can carry on with your normal chores while wearing them. You can wear a single strip for 30 minutes before discarding it. White strips should be worn twice a day for two weeks.

Strips are generally more effective than whitening toothpaste. However, they are not as effective as custom-made trays or professional bleaching because they contain a low concentration of bleaching ingredients.

Furthermore, due to their thin texture, saliva may seep through the strip and dilute the bleaching agents, making them lose their effectiveness. Strips may also slip out and be too short to accommodate a wide smile.

Although strips are generally safe, some contain chlorine dioxide, which can harm your teeth enamel. They are also known to cause irritation and sensitivity to teeth and gums, which is another reason why you should consult your dentist before undertaking any teeth cleaning procedure. If you experience serious tooth sensitivity after using any of the above procedures, your dentist may recommend the best remedy or treatment solution.

How Often Should You Bleach?

This depends on the type of product or procedure you are using. The American Dental Association and Cosmetic Dentist in Greer SC recommend that you have a professional tooth cleaning once a year. However, this will also depend on your dental health and the strength of your natural enamel shade.

If you opt to use teeth cleaning products at home, you should read the instructions on each product as every product follows a different procedure and timeline. However, the average at-home teeth cleaning procedure should take between 7 and 14 days.

What To Expect Before and After Bleaching

After scheduling a professional tooth cleaning appointment with us, we recommend brushing your teeth quite often a few days before the procedure. You should also eat 30 minutes before you enter the lab since you will not be able to eat for several hours after the treatment.

Also, if you have had dental restorations such as porcelain veneers or dental crowns, you may want to replace them after the treatment to ensure they match the new shade of your whitened teeth.

Reclaim Your Smile With A Professional Touch

We all love to have a beautiful smile. But many factors and conditions may take away your natural bright smile due to tooth discoloration. However, you can still reclaim your natural bright smile with the best cosmetic dentistry. At Carraway Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we use high-quality dental labs to create the best and safest cosmetic dental work in Greer, SC. Contact us today to schedule a free tooth whitening consultation.