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What should I consider when whitening my teeth? Is it safe?

If your teeth aren’t quite as white as you would like, you are not alone.  Everyday several people come into the office asking about teeth whitening.  The biggest questions are where do you start, what’s the best way, and is it safe?

To answer the last question I like to quote your favorite beer commercial, “everything in moderation.”  It is very safe and when done properly has at worst mild and temporary side effects.  By far the most common side effect of whitening is tooth sensitivity.  This can range from very slight to quite severe.  It is more common and possibly more severe if you already have sensitivity before you start.  The most damaging side effect of teeth whitening is erosion of the enamel (outer layer of the teeth).  This is not very common and only occurs in cases of extreme over whitening.  Another side effect is transient bleaching and irritation of the gums.  This can usually be avoided by using custom trays and proper filling. Talk to your dentist about how to avoid or minimize these side effects.

So now that we know that teeth whitening can be a safe way to brighten your smile, what’s the best way to get those pearly whites?  The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests that everyone talks to their dentist before starting any whitening regimen.  Many times your dentist will be able to tell you things about your teeth even you didn’t know.  We will start off with store-bought whitening brands.  These are going to be very similar.  Usually a strip coated in a mixture containing either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.  These are the most common agents used to whiten your teeth.  The major downside of this method is no dentist to turn to when something doesn’t go right.  These strips can also cause more gingival irritation due to poor fitting, as well as lengthened treatment time which leads to higher cost.  This method will work for many people, but there are definite downsides.  The recommended method by a majority of dentists is custom made reusable trays filled with a carbamide peroxide gel.  This is a very effective method for at-home whitening and can be custom tailored by your dentist to yield the most positive results with the least side effects.  There are several other options out there for whitening including toothpastes and in-office treatments but the fore-mentioned two are the most common, effective, and safest.

This brings us to our last question, where do you start?  If you would like to use a store-bought brand, I would suggest getting information on the product (are they strips, what chemical is used, and what strength) and taking this to your dentist.  They will usually give their opinion on that product and what to look out for.  If you would like to start a dentist guided at-home whitening, just speak with your dentist.  Either way you go, being consistent with your whitening will give you the best results.  Now go out there and show off those pretty white chompers.




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