Intensely white teeth have become the norm now, leaving some people desperate to get that Hollywood smile by any means. Though most know that having ultra-white teeth doesn’t equal healthy teeth, the pressure to achieve a blindingly white smile continues to dominate. This has formed an entire booming industry of over-the-counter whitening products that tend to promise drastic results. With many of these products not being approved by the FDA or ADA, it’s often tricky for consumers to navigate the best channels to get that blindingly white smile they want without either wasting their money or causing permanent damage to their teeth. With the threat of strategic paid product promotion via influencers on social media, it’s absolutely crucial to know which products are actually going to work, and which are not worth the trouble or potential adverse side effects they may cause.
We are going to break down the most commonly advertised at-home teeth whitening treatments. But first, there’s an important factor to note: if you have a tooth that is particularly discolored or grey in appearance and will seemingly not whiten, despite your attempts, you may be dealing with a tooth that has a dead nerve inside that needs to be seen by a dental professional as soon as possible to avoid potentially life-threatening infection!
Also, it’s recommended that prior to taking on any whitening treatments, you heed precautions of eating and drinking substances that are known to stain teeth like coffee, chewing or smoking tobacco, dark-colored sugary drinks, and teas. If you want to see the best results from any whitening system, abstain from anything that may stain your teeth during the course of the treatment.
Ideally, this would be as simple as applying chapstick or lip gloss, and it would work swimmingly. However, anything that is painted onto the teeth that can be obtained from a store will contain a very diluted form of the whitening agent. The fact that the agent would come into contact with the back of the lips once your mouth is closed means you may deal with discomfort and irritation. They rarely yield results of any kind.
If your teeth aren’t significantly stained and you’re looking for more of a pick-me-up, then toothpaste brands with whitening agents can give you a gentle nudge in the direction you want to go to.
- Easy to buy at any convenience store
- Affordable and can be purchased in bulk
- Available in formulations for sensitive teeth
- Won’t achieve drastic results
- Needs to be used at least 2x a day
- Can be abrasive to enamel if used with hard bristles
Whitening toothpaste certainly can’t hurt, but it’s unlikely to make teeth reach platinum- status whiteness. This method is most helpful for those who have mostly superficial stains from drink and diet, rather than those who are trying to whiten beyond the surface.
We have pseudoscience and social media to thank for this product, making its rounds in recent years. This tar-looking paste promises to scrub your teeth white, but all it really does is wear your enamel down with harsh charcoal granules if you actually get a product that uses real charcoal and not sand! There are some more “refined” powdered versions of this charcoal method, but it’s more likely to stain your bathroom vanity from frequent use than whiten your teeth.
This system was the first to break into the mainstream whitening trend, stemming back to the early to mid-2000s. The average cost of the brand name strips, most notably, Crest Whitestrips®, range from $35-$65 depending on quantity. While the amount of active bleaching agents that are allowed by the FDA is in every strip, it’s essential for those who use the strips to follow the guidelines.
- Pick it up at a local grocery or convenience store
- Good bulk deals at big-box retailers
- Don’t need to see a dentist for a treatment
- Strips don’t whiten the contours of the teeth
- Can cause pangs of pain during use
- Will wear down enamel if overused
Overall, strips aren’t the worst option that exists, but it’s imperative to not overuse them and erode the protective surface of the teeth. Once enamel is gone, it cannot come back, and sensitivity can use everyday problems from the average person.
Light-enabled Teeth Bleaching Systems
The concept behind these LED-light “activated” whitening systems, is borrowed from professional whitening systems that dentists can provide to patients that are evaluated prior to treatment for dental health and safety purposes. While these products boast drastic results using celebrity endorsements, the reality is, those people are not actually using the product, but are actually receiving professional-grade whitening treatments that can only be obtained by seeing a dental professional.
Unsurprisingly, the best way to whiten your teeth is with an expert. Most people end up trying and failing with all of these systems, sometimes spending upwards of $300 in purchases. That’s much more than a session with your dentist will cost you for a session.
- No ill-fitting trays like with old-fashioned whitening systems
- Professional facility with staff to ensure proper treatment
- High-grade whitening agents that aren’t available over-the-counter
- Costs more per-treatment than less-effective at-home treatments
- Some may experience discomfort and sensitivity
- Needs to be done at the dental facility
Most of us have had an old box of whitening treatment in our cabinets that consist of one-size-fits-all trays that resemble mouth guards for years, but it’s time to dispose of it. Whitening is now more affordable and accessible than ever, with its height in popularity and demand. If you really want the whitest smile you can achieve, speak with your dentist about professional whitening and custom whitening trays with regular installments of professional-grade whitening serum. In the long run, you are better off trusting a professional to handle your teeth’s irreplaceable enamel than a product advertised on Instagram.