Nowadays it seems like everybody wants to have the whitest smile possible.
The condition of your teeth can affect your life in a variety of ways, including the first impression you make on a job interview or date.
A quick trip to any drug store or pharmacy reveals a wide array of products claiming that they will whiten your teeth in a matter of days. The promises they make are enticing – but do they really work?
First, let’s explore some of the most popular teeth whitening options available and talk about whether they live up to their advertising. Then, we’ll contrast them with the teeth whitening treatments you can get in your dentist’s office, and talk about whether the at-home methods can compare to professional treatments.
Popular Teeth Whitening Products
Teeth whitening products range from inexpensive to pricey.
Some are effective while others prove to be disappointing.
Plus White makes several teeth whitening products that are very affordable. This one retails for less than $7 and it’s very easy to use. Unlike some other products that require you to take multiple steps to get results, this is a 1-step process that actually starts to whiten teeth after one use. It’s gentle on sensitive teeth too – an area where many whitening products fall short.
This product is one step up from Plus White’s Bleach Whitening Gel. It requires wearing a mouth guard, but compared to some of the others on the market it’s actually fairly comfortable. The kit retails for under $12 and it does a good job of improving the whiteness of teeth in a short period of time.
At the other end of the cost spectrum for over-the-counter whitening products are these professional teeth whitening strips from Crest. They retail at about $55, which might seem like a lot. However, the benefit of using them is that the strips are both easy to apply and effective. The strips do a good job of staying in place. One thing to be aware of with these strips is that they do cause some tooth sensitivity. If you decide to use them, you will need to combine them with a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth and gums for the best results.
This kit retails for about $23, and it fails to live up to its claims. The tray fits the teeth without a problem, but leaving it on for 2 hours has little discernible effect on the whiteness of teeth. There are records of some complaints involving gum damage as a result of using this kit, too. While some people do say they saw an effect, on the whole, the experiences with this product are negative.
The least expensive option to whiten your smile is this whitening toothpaste from Colgate. It doesn’t require the use of any special trays or strips – just a regular toothbrush. Regular use will whiten your teeth several shades without making your teeth sensitive.
This is another fairly expensive product, retailing for about $37. However, it is not as effective or easy to use as the other products covered here. The whitening gel has a strange taste and it may, in some cases, whiten your gums as well as your teeth. The guard is poorly made and is uncomfortable to wear, making it a poor choice all around.
This 2-step whitening kit from Supersmile delivers good results if you use it consistently. The kit includes both whitening toothpaste and a whitening accelerator. When used in conjunction with one another, they can help to brighten your smile. The kit retails for $36.
As you can see, there is a lot of variation in over-the-counter teeth whitening formulas, both in terms of cost and effectiveness.
How Teeth Whitening Products Compare to Professional Treatments
Now that you have an overview of some of the teeth whitening products that are available in stores, let’s talk about how they differ from the treatments you can get in your dentist’s office.
A lot of people prefer over-the-counter treatments because they are less expensive than a professional treatment.
Which option you choose may vary depending upon your individual needs, but here are some of the things you should know about professional treatments:
- The whitening gels available in dentists’ offices use a higher concentration of bleach than what you can buy over the counter. Over-the-counter products typically require long-term use to be effective. In some cases, that can lead to tooth and gum sensitivity.
- A dentist will make a custom tray for you that will conform to your teeth. Over-the-counter trays may have some flexibility, but they will not fit as well as a custom tray. The tray that a dentist makes for you will hold the proper amount of gel to whiten your teeth without affecting your gums, and you may keep it for future touch-ups.
- Professional whitening treatments are safe and effective. There is some risk with at-home treatments that you may over-use them or do damage to your teeth or gums. When the whitening is supervised by a dentist, you can be sure that you won’t overdo it and run into trouble.
- If your teeth are not perfectly aligned, then you may have a hard time getting over-the-counter treatments to work for you. A lot of patients who have crooked teeth end up giving up because the mouth guards don’t fit properly and the combination of a poor fit with weak bleaching solutions doesn’t yield the results they want. Your dentist has products that will work no matter what your dental issues are.
- At-home treatments generally only work on the front teeth. If you want your whole mouth to be brighter, your dentist can ensure that all of your teeth get the whitening treatment – not just the few that are in the front of your mouth.
The bottom line is that if your teeth need only mild whitening, then buying a teeth whitening product may be the way to go. However, if you have crooked teeth or need a stronger whitening solution, the treatments your dentist has to offer can help you achieve the results you want.
I received my Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Washington and completed my undergraduate studies in biochemistry at Washington State University. A member of the American Dental Association and Academy of Operative Dentistry, I strive to continue providing the most advanced and clinically-proven dental care available.