Maybe your daily cup of coffee has your teeth looking a little stained, and you’re feeling a bit self-conscious when you smile or talk. While you’re at the grocery store, you see a row of products, from toothpastes to gel trays, all promising a brighter, whiter smile. While they are affordable and you appreciate the convenience of getting whiter teeth at home, you decide to do a little research to see if these at-home whitening kits are safe and effective.

That’s what brought you here, so to help you choose the best option for getting a brighter smile, our dentist office in Cary is sharing an in-depth look at the safety and effectiveness of home teeth whitening strips and gels.

How Do Teeth Whiteners Work?

Tobacco products, red wine, coffee, pop, and tea can all cause a build up of chromogens on the teeth and lead to extrinsic discoloration, or stains on the outside of the tooth enamel. Intrinsic discoloration is from a the presence of chromagens within the tooth’s interior and is generally caused by certain medications or injury.

Teeth whitening agents, both professional and over the counter, contain hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. When exposed to water, the carbamide peroxide disintegrates and releases hydrogen peroxide, providing the same effect. The peroxide agent attacks the chromogens, dissolving the compounds, and bleaching the stains away.

Do At Home Teeth Whitening Strips and Gels Work?

The two most common types of over the counter whitening products are strips and gels.

Whitening Strips

Whitening strips are made from plastic and shaped to fit over the visible areas of the teeth and worn for 30 minutes for up to two weeks. The plastic is coated with a peroxide solution that releases into the teeth to bleach any stains.

Whitening Gels

Whitening gels contain peroxide and are either “painted” on the teeth with a brush or can be worn in a tray that sits on the teeth for a period of time with the gel bleaching extrinsic stains.

When used correctly, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, these products can generally whiten teeth one to two shades lighter.

Are Home Teeth Whitening Products Safe?

Because many of these whitening products are approved by the American Dental Association and are available for sale at most grocery stores and department stores, they are assumed to be safe for use. For most people, they are when used correctly, but we do want to explain some risks involved in using these products.

Using Whiteners on Unhealthy Teeth

If you have tooth decay or cavities, using these products can cause additional damage and speed up decaying by damaging the enamel. Also, because these products are made for your natural teeth, if you’ve had certain types of dental work done, like crowns or implants, whitening may cause damage.

Increased Tooth Sensitivity and Gum Irritation

Using peroxide on the teeth can lead to increased sensitivity. When performed under the care of a dentist, he or she may provide you with products designed to reduce or minimize any sensitivity to heat or cold.

Also, the whitening treatment can cause irritation to the gums, and this is more common with at-home treatments. With the gel that’s worn inside trays, those aren’t custom fitted, so it’s more likely for gel to get along the gums, while the plastic strips can poke and press into gum tissue.

Demineralization and Collagen Damage

When used excessively or if there are untreated tooth problems, using teeth whitening agents can lead to demineralization – a loss of calcium and other minerals within the teeth. This leads to an increased risk of decay, cavities, and even tooth loss.

Within the tooth, the dentin is primarily made of collagen. New studies are showing that excessive use or incorrect use of peroxide can dissolve and damage collagen, putting the tooth at risk from the interior.

Choosing Professional Tooth Whitening

Professional teeth whitening is significantly safer and more effective than at home treatments. Our cosmetic dentist in Cary works with patients all the time to help them achieve a bright, healthy smile, and this includes professional teeth whitening that can be done in the comfort of your home.

First, we will determine if you’re a good candidate and make sure any dental issues are repaired and your teeth are healthy. Then, you’ll be fitted for custom trays to ensure the gel doesn’t harm your gums when you’re wearing them and also that they are comfortable. Finally, you’ll be given in-depth instructions on how and when to apply the whitening treatment and you can take the gel and trays home to apply them at your convenience.

Professional teeth whitening is not only safer, it lasts much longer than over the counter options, so you’ll have the best possible experience!

Contact Us to Get Your Dream Smile!

At Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry, we want you to feel confident in your smile and will work with you to provide you the best possible solutions to achieve what you want. If you want to learn more about teeth whitening, schedule an appointment with us today by filling out the form below, by calling our Cary office at 919-467-2203 or Holly Springs dentist office at 919-600-6262.