A Comprehensive Guide to Teeth Whitening

A great white smile is essential for an excellent first impression. If you have tooth discoloration, you could benefit from at-home or in-office whitening treatments.

Using this comprehensive guide, you can select the method that matches your lifestyle, budget, and expectations of your dream smile.

What should I consider before heading into a teeth whitening treatment?

Before scheduling your teeth whitening session or purchasing an at-home method, there are a few things you should consider.

Between cleanings with a dental hygienist, stubborn bacteria and plaque starts to form on the teeth and cannot be removed 100% when you brush your teeth at home. If bacteria and plaque are still coating your teeth, both natural and chemical whitening formulas are incapable of removing stains since they are unable to penetrate the surface of your teeth.

Natural teeth can lighten; artificial teeth and dental restorations cannot. Schedule your teeth whitening treatment, or plan your self-led treatment to end before any dental restoration procedures. Your dentist will then match the artificial tooth, veneer, or filling to your new tooth shade, creating a beautiful, consistent smile.

Natural, DIY teeth whitening methods: Keeping it organic

There are some natural methods anyone can DIY at home.

Oil pulling

Oil pulling is an ancient technique used to improve general oral hygiene, remove harmful toxins, and improve the teeth’s appearance. The method involves swishing an oil of your choice for 15-20 minutes, focusing on pushing the oil through the gaps between teeth. This method fights bacteria which can transform into plaque, which causes our teeth to take a discolored, slightly yellow tint.

Coconut oil is the most popular oil for oil pulling, but you can choose any oil, including sunflower or sesame oils. Coconut oil is popular because it has a pleasant taste, and it is more effective in killing bacteria due to its high content of lauric acid.

Although studies prove that oil pulling is beneficial to your overall oral health by killing harmful bacteria, there are unfortunately no studies about the direct relationship between oil pulling and teeth whitening.

Activated charcoal products (toothpaste, powders)

Activated charcoal is a finely milled black powder from coconut shells, bone char, olive pits, coal or sawdust. The charcoal is considered “activated” because it is processed with high heat, which changes its internal structure, making it more porous than standard charcoal. During the same process, all materials or traces of materials which could be harmful are removed.

Activated charcoal has a negative electric charge, which attracts and absorbs positively charged molecules like free radicals or bacteria.

Claims suggest that the activated charcoal component helps to purify your teeth and remove toxins to display a whiter, cleaner surface.

Activated charcoal is safe for the mouth because it cannot be absorbed. But there are some things to be aware of if you are interested in trying activated charcoal for teeth whitening. It can be quite abrasive to our teeth and cause irreparable damage to the surface, leaving your teeth vulnerable to external elements and sensitivity.

When purchasing toothpaste including activated charcoal or pure powders, check for the Relative Dentin Abrasitivity (RDA) number. As long as the RDA is below 250, it should not cause any lasting damage to your teeth. Most activated charcoal powders are around 70-90 on the scale.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a known disinfectant that has been used for centuries. The main active ingredient in the vinegar is acetic acid, which is effective at killing bacteria.

The effect, therefore, is similar to that of oil pulling as the reduction of bacteria in the mouth could counteract or prevent future staining.

Use apple cider vinegar as a mouthwash for teeth whitening. Make sure to dilute the vinegar with lots of water and swish the mixture for a few minutes. Rinse your mouth once you are done.

There have been scientific studies conducted about apple cider vinegar and its teeth whitening capabilities. According to one study, apple cider vinegar does have a bleaching effect but also softens the teeth in some cases.

Hence why you should consult with your dentist before, during, and after any attempted bleaching treatment with apple cider vinegar. When informed, your dentist can survey the condition of your teeth and protect them from damage.

Who should choose natural teeth whitening?

Anyone! These methods come with a smaller risk of sensitivity or other dental complications.

Since the majority of these techniques are so gentle on the teeth, they do not strip away the protective top layer of enamel. This means it is safe to use the methods (except for apple cider vinegar) every day. Even though these methods are natural, you should still consult with your dentist before starting treatment.

Natural teeth whitening is best for on-the-go individuals or, people who are worried about their tooth sensitivity being triggered by either over the counter or professional-grade chemical whitening systems.

OTC teeth whitening: The accessible method

Over the counter products, also known as OTC bleaching ,products, is the term used to describe the large variety of teeth whitening products you can find in a pharmacy. The products usually come in one of two formats: whitening strips which you apply directly to the teeth, or one size fits all trays and bleaching gel.

Other variations such as rinses, paint-on brushes, toothpaste, chewing gums, and dental floss exist, but their availability will depend on your geographic area.

Whitening toothpaste, floss, and gum can help remove superficial stains to some degree. Rinses, paint-on brushes, trays, and strips all have some amount of peroxide but do not deliver the same results as professional treatments.

After looking around online, you are likely to find hundreds if not thousands of happy customers who used OTC products to achieve a white smile. But it is challenging to find independent medical studies which prove the effectiveness of such treatments.

Consumers are forced to trust the manufacturer’s claims and form their own opinion about the quality of the product after the treatment has ended.

OTC methods are generally inexpensive, so it is feasible that you could try out multiple brands and products to see which works best for teeth and yields the most results.

Even though these treatments can be carried out from your own home, without dentist supervision, it is recommended you let your dentist know before you try any bleaching treatment.

Who should choose OTC teeth whitening?

Anyone can whiten their teeth with OTC products. It is important to keep in mind that these products are not professional grade and will need some time work. Generally speaking, you will need around two weeks to notice a visible difference in the whiteness of your teeth.

Therefore, this method is suited for people who have the luxury of time, and do not need to have their teeth whitened immediately. This is an excellent option for patients who are looking for an easy process they can carry out at home with little effort and minimal cost.

OTC bleaching treatments are also more suited toward minor surface level stains since most of the products are not designed to penetrate the teeth and remove deeper discoloration.

If you have a lot of dental restorations or experience tooth or gum sensitivity, then OTC teeth whitening products are not a good option. They can be abrasive and if misapplied, can irritate the soft tissues in your mouth.

Tried and true dentist-led methods: Instant results, no effort

If you are looking for instantaneous results, the best option is to visit your Owens Cosmetic and Family Dentistry. At our dental office, we offer two kinds of potent, professional-grade teeth whitening methods: at-home whitening trays and Zoom! Whitening.

Zoom! Whitening

If you decide to visit our practice for a teeth whitening treatment, you will receive Zoom! Teeth Whitening. One of the most popular teeth-whitening treatments across the United States.

What is Zoom! made of and how does it work?

The Zoom! Whitening treatment consists of two parts: The Zoom Advanced Power Chairside Lamp and a 25% Hydrogen peroxide whitening gel.

The specially made Zoom Advanced Power Chairside Lamp was created to accelerate the bleaching process and strengthen the whitening gel formula. The lamp, which emits a blue light and minimal heat, breaks the Hydrogen peroxide down to release oxygen. This oxygen enters the enamel as well as the deeper dentin level, to remove stains without affecting the tooth structure.

What is the Zoom! procedure?

When you come in for a Zoom! Whitening treatment at Owens Cosmetic and Family Dentistry, you will be provided with all the proper precautions to keep your mouth’s soft tissues safe. Your lips and gums will be covered, so they are protected from the light as well as the potent Hydrogen peroxide gel.

Next, the Zoom! Hydrogen peroxide whitening gel will be applied. This gel is left on the surface of your teeth for three 15 minutes intervals, during which you are free to relax and watch some TV.

Following the 45-minute treatment period, a fluoride paste is applied to your teeth to reduce any sensitivity after the procedure.

Our dentists will send you home with a custom Zoom! at-home touch-up kit for periodical use. This treatment kit includes trays molded to your smile as well as a professional-grade whitening gel with 9.5% Hydrogen peroxide. Use your follow-up kit at least once a month, but no more often than on a bi-weekly basis, for 5 to 10 minutes. This will keep your teeth white, long after your initial treatment.

Who should choose whitening treatments carried out by dentists?

Anyone who wants or needs immediate results, in-office whitening treatments are the best and safest option. If you have more time to spare but still want a more potent formula, which was designed by dentist, take-home whitening trays provided by Owens Cosmetic, and Family Dentistry are a great option.

Why should I choose in-office treatments over OTC products?

OTC treatments expose your gums directly to peroxide, causing major lasting sensitivity. Over the counter treatments are also less potent, meaning it will take longer until your teeth appear whiter.

In-office treatments, however, utilize formulas created by experts in the field. These formulas have a strong bleaching effect leaving your teeth whiter after just one appointment. But just because they are stronger does not mean they are uncomfortable or harmful to your teeth. All professional teeth whitening formulas are created with your entire mouth in mind to minimize the amount of sensitivity you feel during and after treatment. All in all, dentist-applied formulas are stronger, more effective, and gentler on the teeth than anything you can find over the counter.

Contact Owens Cosmetic and Family Dentistry at (248) 621-4816 if you are interested in our whitening treatments. Our staff can also provide more information regarding the differences between in-office and OTC products.

Tips on maintaining white teeth

Unfortunately, your teeth will not stay white forever following a whitening treatment. You must take certain precautions and take great care of your teeth to keep them looking bright and beautiful.

Since yellowing teeth can be onset by lifestyle choices, adjusting your daily habits can help to keep any signs of yellowing at bay, in addition to severe dental disease.

To prevent stains, avoid dark or bright colored foods and liquids. Coffee, tea, red wine, and tomato-based sauces are all known to stain the teeth over time. Use a straw when drinking colored drinks to minimize staining. If you smoke, you should stop immediately to improve the appearance of your teeth, gum tissue, and breath.

Individuals who have high-sugar diets are at a higher risk to develop plaque on the surface of their teeth, which can degrade the color and brightness of your teeth. So, it is also wise to limit your sugar intake as well.

Structuring your diet around teeth-friendly foods keeps your teeth and body healthy. Dairy products, lean proteins, nuts, fruits, and vegetables are all essential parts of a healthy diet which support dental health. Besides food products, focus on drinking lots of water throughout the day. If you can, find water with a high fluoride content as the material helps strengthen and protect your teeth even further.

And above all, maintain an excellent regimen of oral hygiene. Brush at least twice a day, followed by flossing and mouth rinses once a day. For extra bright pearly whites, use oral hygiene products created for whiter teeth if your dentist recommends them, and visit your dentist twice a year for a check-up.

The Owens Cosmetic and Family Dentistry team is eager to help you achieve your dream smile. Are you ready? Call us today on (248) 716-8623 and enjoy a brighter smile.

After graduating from the journalism school of the University of Maryland, Theresa began to gain interest in writing topics regarding the medical field after observing specific health patterns in her family history. Theresa recently quit her full-time job and left her home in D.C. to move to Medellin, Colombia to pursue remote work. Today, she professionally writes about dentistry, VA hospitals, alternative medicine, and other health-related matters.