Whitening Treatments: How Do They Work?
Looking to brighten those pearly whites, but don’t know where to start? From toothpastes and
strips to dentist trips, it’s easy to get confused about all your whitening options. Here’s a simple account of how they work.
Toothpaste: A shiny surface
Unlike bleaching agents that change the actual color of your teeth, whitening toothpastes such as SuperSmile Whitening Toothpaste or GoSMILE AM PM Whitening Protection Flouride Toothpastes
contain abrasives or enzymes that remove surface stains, according to The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA). Some products can contain bleaching ingredients, as well, JADA explains.
Other popular toothpaste contains special silica abrasives, the active ingredients that remove surface stains and prevent them from forming in the first place. Another ingredient, sodium tripolyphosphate, works on calcified stains. Citroxain, a patented whitening agent,
“chemically disrupts stain through the combined action of papain, citrate and aluminium oxide,” states JADA. Whitening toothpaste typically lightens the teeth by one shade.
Strips and trays
Aside from toothpaste, other over-the-counter products like strips and trays and gels use peroxide, which actually bleaches the enamel, to whiten teeth. Options include GOSMILE B1 Tooth Whitener and
SuperSmile Whitening Accelerator Component. The effectiveness of these products depends on the strength of the ingredient used. Be careful with using these products for long periods of time, because they can permanently damage your tooth enamel.
Also, note that these products won’t work if your discoloration is caused by caries or stained fillings, crowns or other restorations, cautions JADA.
There is a wide array of other whitening products on drugstore shelves, including whitening gum, floss and mouthwash, such as SuperSmile Whitening Gum, SuperSmile Whitening Floss and
GoSMILE Greater Than Rinse. About.com suggests looking for the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of acceptance when purchasing whitening products.
At the doctor’s office
Dentists use peroxide bleaching agents that whiten teeth by breaking down pigment. When bleaching in-office, dentists apply hydrogen peroxide — about 15 to 43 percent according to WebMD — that can make teeth three to eight shades brighter. Dentists might also use heat or light to encourage or speed
up the bleaching process, states the American Dental Association.
In addition, trays and gels are also available at your dentist’s office. In contrast to the trays sold at the drugstore, these trays are actually customized to fit your teeth. This method is used at home, and the gel formula typically contains 10 percent carbamide peroxide.
Whitening isn’t recommended for everyone. For instance, avoid whitening if you’re pregnant or nursing or under 16 years old. The same goes for those with gum disease, worn enamel, exposed roots and untreated cavities. If you have sensitive teeth, simply check with your dentist before using any whitening system at home.