Believe it or not, the practice of whitening teeth dates back to ancient Egypt, at least according to an article in Seattle Times about the history of teeth whitening. Whiter teeth were believed to be a sign of affluence, wealth and social status — which isn’t much different from today.
Over the last decade or more, teeth whitening has become a $6 billion industry, according to research shared on Statista, and it’s expected to exceed $8 billion over the next decade. You can see it happening as more and more celebrities and influencers across social media promote a bevvy of tooth whitening products.
With so many products vying for your smile, how do you know which tooth whitening product is right for you? Here’s what you need to know about the best methods for whitening your teeth.
Types of Tooth Whitening Products
There are several options for whitening your teeth, and they fall into two major categories: in-office dental procedures and over-the-counter DIY products.
In-Office Tooth Whitening
This is the most expensive and most complicated type of tooth whitening. Although it is effective for whitening your teeth, the risks and side effects can make it less attractive.
The way in-office whitening works is, your dentist uses expensive equipment specifically designed to whiten your teeth. They apply a solution to your teeth — typically containing peroxide and other ingredients. The dentist then uses light-accelerated technology to whiten your teeth. Depending on your situation and how many levels you want to whiten your teeth, your dentist may recommend several applications for your whitening process.
The downside of this method is that for the time the procedure takes, it’s a little uncomfortable. Your mouth has to remain open with the whitening equipment, which can be uncomfortable, especially if you have a weak gag reflex. Some patients report having an electrical “zap” feeling in their teeth for a day or two after the procedure.
Your dentist might also prescribe at-home whitening treatments to touch up and maintain the effects from your in-office whitening treatments.
Your dentist might also caution against consuming foods and beverages that are known to stain teeth:
- Coffee and black tea
- Red wine
- Berries and fruit juice
- Tomato-based sauces
At-Home Tooth Whitening
Drug store, department store and grocery store aisles are filled with tooth whitening options, most of which come in the following formats:
- Whitening toothpastes
- Tooth whitening strips
- Whitening trays
You can also use hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth. This whitening treatment is safe and natural because it consists of water and oxygen. It helps sanitize and whiten your teeth.
At-home tooth brightening, bleaching or whitening solutions typically use hydrogen peroxide as the main ingredient for lightening teeth. The results can be effective, although some report a chalky and unnatural whiteness from the bleaching effect.
Whitening toothpaste takes longer to produce desired results. Another option is tooth whitening strips, which are worn for 30 minutes once or twice daily, avoiding contact with the gums. Use teeth whitening strips moderately to avoid gum irritation and tooth sensitivity.
Dentists usually prescribe at-home whitening kits containing about 10% carbide or hydrogen peroxide worn within 3 to 4 hours. It’s advised not to eat or drink anything when you’re wearing trays. For day whitening trays, patients should wear them for at least 1 to 2 hours, while night whitening trays can be worn overnight during sleep. Rinse your mouth after the recommended time and rinse the trays with cold water.
Alternatively, a newer product on the market uses natural mineral crystals to instantly brighten teeth. This WX Formula tooth brightening gel is peroxide-free and gentler than some of the other over-the-counter options. It can whiten teeth up to 10 shades without stripping the enamel.
Which Is Best for Whitening Teeth?
Tooth discoloration can be caused by taking medications for prolonged period, including antibiotics and antipsychotic drugs. Poor dental hygiene may cause accumulated and stubborn plaques, that are hard to remove. On top of that, your lifestyle can also affect your dental health, because smoking and alcoholism can stain the teeth.
If you have a tooth infection or you suffered oral trauma, the teeth can be affected as well, possibly causing tooth discoloration.
By knowing the possible causes of tooth discoloration, you’d probably have a good idea on how to choose the best teeth whitening treatment for you.
Before you undertake any tooth whitening process, see your dentist if you have any tender areas or sensitive teeth.
The best method for whitening your teeth depends on your own personal preferences, as well as your budget. If you opt for the in-office tooth whitening procedure, ask to see before-and-after photos from other people who’ve had teeth similar to yours.
If you have a weak gag reflex, for example, the DIY over-the-counter methods might be preferable with the exception of the tooth whitening trays.
If money is no object and you are willing and able to give up foods and beverages that stain teeth — and you don’t mind the painful zaps post-procedure — then in-office tooth whitening might be your best choice.
If you care about sustainability and want to incorporate tooth brightening into your daily routine, then the tooth brightening gel might be your best bet. It’s also safe enough to use on dental work and as a post-in-office way to maintain the work you’ve had done with your dentist.