Whiter teeth have become the western standard for a radiant and natural bright smile. The majority of people will require a cosmetic treatment if they want to achieve this.
There are many ways to whiten teeth, including DIY and over-the-counter methods that can be done at home and professional methods that are performed at a dentist’s office.
Before committing to a whitening treatment, it’s important to understand what each procedure entails and how the results can be maximized.
While every method has a different rate of efficacy, there’s no treatment that will leave your teeth white forever. In fact, most patients will need to get their teeth whitened every six months.
How long do common whitening methods last?
There are many methods for whitening teeth, and each has a different degree and length of effectiveness.
- Bleaching paste: Some sources promote a homemade whitening solution made from baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. These two ingredients create a chemical reaction to bleach teeth. Unfortunately, this method is not proven to work nor is it safe for your teeth and gums, so we don’t recommend you try it.
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil pulling is a method in which a person swishes a tablespoon of oil in their mouth for 10 to 20 minutes. Although some sources promote it as a way to reduce plaque and possibly whiten teeth, there is no scientific data to prove its effectiveness. In any case, coconut oil is safe for your teeth, so there’s no harm in trying this method.
- Activated charcoal powder: Charcoal is said to absorb plaque and thereby whiten teeth, however, there’s not enough evidence to support its effectiveness. Regular brushing with charcoal is not recommended because it’s abrasive to the tooth enamel. If anything, it may cause more harm than good.
- Whitening toothpaste: Whitening toothpaste can lighten the color of teeth if used twice daily, however it can take several weeks for results to begin to appear. While they may be effective in removing some surface stains, this method is simply not enough to make significant changes. The results may last as little as 3 months. These toothpastes generally contain bleaching agents like hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide, silica, or pyrophosphates. Since they’re abrasive to the enamel, prolonged use is not recommended.
- Whitening mouthwash: Mouthwash is oftentimes used as a complement to other whitening treatments. When used on its own, it can take about 3 months to see any results, but just like whitening toothpaste, the changes are minimal and won’t last long.
- Strips: Whitening strips provide results that can last for around 4 months. To see significant results, they generally need to be used two times a day for about two weeks. The problem you may experience is a weakening of the tooth enamel as a result of overuse, in which case it will cause or contribute to sensitive teeth. Another issue is that the strips are generic, so they’re not made to fit the shape of a person’s teeth precisely. As a result, they are known for causing irritation when they come into contact with the gums.
- Blue LED light bleaching: Some of these treatments require daily applications for 5 to 21 days. Results can be seen quickly and will last for approximately 6 months. This treatment requires a bleaching gel to be applied to the teeth. The LED light then activates the chemical agent that whitens the teeth. This treatment has to be applied carefully because if the gel comes into contact with the gums, it can cause irritation and sensitivity
- Whitening tray: Trays need to be used for 3 to 7 days, depending on a person’s desired results and tooth sensitivity. They can last as little as 6 months and as long as 3 years, depending on a person’s dental hygiene. The bleaching tray is one of the safest because it’s custom-made from a mold of a patient’s mouth and is used with a whitening gel that is provided by the dentist. These trays ensure a proper and secure seal around the tooth without it coming into contact with the gums.
- Laser: Laser treatments require about 3 sessions for significant results to be seen. It can last as little as 6 months but generally lasts for years. The process is similar to the LED method but this treatment is carefully performed by a dentist in office. It’s very effective and safe for your enamel and gums.
Homemade vs professional whitening treatments
Pros and cons of home whitening
- Easy to use
- No dentist visits required
- Cheaper alternative to professional whitening
- Can be minimally to moderately effective depending on the method used
- Can weaken a patient’s teeth, cause tooth sensitivity, and irritate the gums
- Might not produce long-lasting or dramatic results
- The process can take several weeks or months
- It may provide varying results depending on the root cause of the discoloration
Pros and cons of professional teeth whitening methods
- Provide the most effective results
- The entire process takes a week or less
- The whitening agent is adjusted so the teeth can be lightened to the right shade of a patient’s natural tooth color to prevent an unnatural look
- Performed in a controlled manner under the supervision of a dental professional
- Easy and safe to use
- Require an office visit
- More costly than DIY and over-the-counter methods
Tips for a long-lasting whitening treatment
These tips can help in conserving your white smile.
- Maintain good dental hygiene, including brushing and flossing daily.
- Understand the common causes of tooth discoloration and refrain from those things to the best of your ability.
- Follow your dentist’s suggestions on how to prolong the results of your whitening treatment.
- Avoid tobacco products.
- Avoid strong-pigmented foods and beverages, like tomato sauce and red wine, for the first 72 hours after the bleaching process. In this article, we list the foods that you should and should not eat after a whitening session.
It’s important to understand that the results of a whitening product can vary regardless of the method used. It may not be possible or realistic for someone with yellow teeth to obtain drastic results immediately after a procedure is complete.
Whitening results heavily depend on the root cause of the discoloration and lifestyle factors, of which good dental hygiene is the most important.
For optimal results and to prevent negative whitening effects, it’s a good idea to have these types of cosmetic procedures done by a dentist.
Our specialists at Kootenai Dental Group in Coeur d’Alene, ID are dedicated to the health of your pearly whites and bright smile. Call 208-762-8750 today for a free consultation!