Q. I hear about teeth whitening products every day. Are these products harmful to teeth and do they really work?
A. The most effective and safe form of tooth whitening is done by a dentist, using one of three main delivery methods. For all brands the active ingredient is hydrogen peroxide. One delivery method is through a strip that is not custom to each person, generally like what a person could find in a drug store, but with a little higher concentration of active ingredients than you can buy over the counter. This is the least effective of delivery methods. You can expect to pay around $100 for this treatment, and it will take about 14 days, making it the cheapest and most time-consuming method. Another option is custom trays made for each person individually. They are form fitting, keeping the whitening gel off the gums and allowing for a higher percentage of hydrogen peroxide. This treatment takes 10 days and is very effective; it is the gold standard of whitening and costs from $200 to $500. Most dentists offer gel for between $50 and $100 which can be used for touch-ups once you have the custom trays. A third method is in office whitening which can achieve a great result. The high concentration of active ingredients works in about one hour. While the cost is $400 to $800, this method works very well and provides the quickest results. All of these methods are safe FDA approved for tooth whitening.
Although some people will lighten 12 shades others may only get 6 shades of lightening. The average tooth color is lighter now than it used to be, due to the technology of whitening. The whiter teeth will stay white for months or even years, depending on your habits. If you are a constant coffee drinker and smoke, the teeth will stain again rather quickly. If you don’t ingest staining substances, your white teeth could last years.
This is a fun area of dentistry, and because it is both safe and effective, you can feel free to indulge.
Mark D. McOmie, D.M.D.
McOmie Family and Cosmetic Dentistry
5999 Shallowford Rd., Chattanooga, TN