Everybody wants a dazzling white smile, but not everybody wants to spend the money it takes to have their teeth professionally whitened by a dentist. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of tooth whitening products available at your grocery or local drug store. But do they work?
Over-the-counter tooth whitening products are made up of the same ingredients as those available in a dentist’s office. The main difference is their strength. Most tooth whiteners are a hydrogen peroxide solution. Those available professionally are much stronger, and so can act more quickly and can eliminate more stubborn staining more efficiently than their over-the-counter equivalents.
This isn’t to say that drugstore whitening products don’t work-they do. They’re just not as powerful as “prescription strength” products. If you have mild staining on your teeth, over-the-counter products can give you a satisfactory result, overall.
Advantages to OTC whitening products:
Increased privacy. Nobody but you needs to know that you’re pursuing whitening treatments.
Lower cost. Over-the-counter products are considerably less expensive than in-office whitening.
Convenience. You can plan your treatments around your own schedule.
Disadvantages to OTC whitening products:
They’re weaker than in-office whiteners. It might take considerably longer to see results, and if you have very stained or discolored teeth, they might not make much of a difference at all.
No professional supervision. You have no one to explain how to use the products correctly. If you misuse the whitening materials, you could damage your teeth and/or gums.
All must be used over a long period. Unlike in-office whitening, which often can be completed in a single visit, OTC products must be used faithfully over a period of time in order to achieve satisfactory results.
Types of OTC whitening products:
There are a few different kinds of whitening products available in the average grocery store.
Whitening toothpaste. Can be used just like regular toothpaste, but contains a whitening agent that can improve the color of your teeth with regular use.
Paint-on whiteners. A hydrogen peroxide solution, these whiteners are painted directly onto the teeth once a day. Directions include painting onto dry teeth, and avoiding eating or drinking for a period after application. Regular daily use is necessary to see results.
Whitening strips. These are similar to paint-on whiteners, except the whitening agent is infused into a strip which is placed onto the teeth. Again, daily use is necessary for optimal results.
Whitening trays and gels. Similar to take-home whitening systems used by dentists, these include a whitening gel and plastic trays. The gel is dispensed into the trays, then you must wear the trays on your teeth for a period of time every day. This process is more inconvenient than strips or paint-on whiteners, but can produce a faster result than either.
In short, yes, drugstore whiteners do work. They’re best for people with minor issues, though-major staining and discoloration will probably need the attention of a dentist to be completely eliminated. But if you only need a mild whitener, over-the-counter tooth whiteners might be just the thing to spruce up your smile.