Many of us wish we had a whiter, more brilliant smile. In fact, I don’t know of many people at all who wouldn’t sign up for whiter teeth if given the option. Questions around tooth whitening are among the most common ones we field every day in the office. Patients are curious about the cost and the predictability of results. After discussion, lots of patients become interested in their over-the-counter options, as well as what they can do to prevent yellowing and staining in the first place.
One thing we are passionate about at Shiflett Family Dental is prevention. It’s no surprise that preventing stains and discoloration is an important part of having a bright smile. Eliminating habits such as smoking or chewing tobacco will have a dramatic effect, but can be difficult to achieve. The easiest prevention method is to avoid stain inducing foods and drinks such as coffee, tea, soda, berries, and red sauces. If you can’t avoid them altogether, consider rinsing your mouth with a fluoride mouthwash or with water after you’ve finished. That well-deserved cup of coffee or glass of red wine won’t have near the staining power as it would have without the rinse. Brushing your teeth may seem like a good idea, too, but be careful. Brushing immediately after having something acidic (such as soda or wine) can damage your teeth by wiping away tooth enamel.
Over The Counter Teeth Whitening Options
There are a variety of tooth whitening options available at your local drug store or shopping center. Toothpaste, mouthwashes, and whitening strips are the most common, so we will focus on them. Spoiler alert: whitening strips are a decent option, while toothpaste and mouthwashes aren’t so great.
Whitening toothpaste works in two different ways: by scrubbing away stains or by “bleaching” them out. Whitening toothpaste that scrubs away stains can only accomplish its goal by being abrasive, which means they are damaging your enamel in the process. Charcoal toothpaste has this issue as well, so we don’t recommend them. Toothpaste that whitens by “bleaching” uses the same ingredients as professional whitening gels (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide). The problem is, these toothpaste have too little of the active ingredient or aren’t in your mouth long enough to get the job done. The typical prescription strength gel we like to use at Shiflett Family Dental, for example, is used for 2 hours per day over a 2 week period to get results. I think we can all agree that brushing for 2 hours a day is not a great option. Long story short: using toothpaste won’t get you the bright smile you are dreaming of.
Whitening mouthwashes suffer from one of the same pitfalls as toothpaste, so they are not a great option either. The active ingredient would need to be in contact for an extended period of time in order to break stains away from your teeth. It’s not realistic or safe for you to use a mouthwash containing hydrogen peroxide for that long. Even if you could manage to keep the liquid in your mouth for an adequate length of time, the active ingredients would make the inside of your mouth raw and irritated. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty awful to me.
Over-the-counter Whitening Strips
Teeth whitening strips (such as Crest Whitestrips) are probably the best non-prescription option to brighten your smile. They have the same whitening ingredient as what your dentist can give you, just in a lower concentration. They aren’t abrasive and keep the vast majority of the gel away from your gums. It’s important to note that the speed and degree of whitening achieved won’t be comparable to prescription-strength gel placed in custom trays, but they can be a great option for those looking for a budget-friendly result. Regardless of what method you use, always use anti-sensitivity toothpaste (such as Sensodyne) for 2 weeks prior to starting your whitening regimen. This will greatly reduce the amount of temporary tooth sensitivity that can come with whitening products.
Further Questions? Call Shiflett Family Dental To Learn More
If you have questions about what tooth whitening strategy is right for you, give our dental office in Clintonville a call at (614)262-1807