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Teeth Whitening: Your Dentist vs. At-Home Treatments


You see white teeth everywhere, from the movies to magazines. Sometimes, it's difficult not to feel self-conscious if you have an off-white or yellow appearance to your teeth. You have several teeth whitening options, from do-it-yourself kits to professional services offered by your dentist. There are pros and cons to each method so take some time to evaluate which will work best for your needs.

In-Office Whitening Methods

When you get teeth whitening services at your dentist's office, they use a piece of equipment called a whitening tray. It's custom fitted to your mouth and filled with a gel that bleaches the tooth for that bright white smile. Your gums get covered by a protective device so they don't get any of the gel on them. In some cases, the dentist shines a halogen light on the tray. This light treatment speeds up the process, but you can also opt to return for more than one visit if you prefer.

The typical procedure lasts between one and two hours, and costs normally start around $300. In-office teeth whitening, while initially more costly, will undoubtedly have a longer effect on the whiteness of your smile than any at-home treatment. Halogen light whitening is the more expensive of the two options. The results typically give you teeth that look up to eight shades whiter than the original colors. Professional teeth whitening often produces the most effective results, as dentists have access to stronger gels and have a strong understanding of the stain and discoloration fighting agents in these substances.

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At-Home Whitening Methods

You have a variety of at-home products that can lift the color of your teeth. They come in four general categories: gel strips, whitening trays, rinses and toothpaste.

The least expensive option is a whitening toothpaste, which doesn't cost much more than non-whitening products. You experience a slight whitening effect over time, which works well if you simply want to address some stubborn stains or a slightly off-white color.

Whitening rinses cost about the same as a typical mouthwash, so they're another low option for brightening your teeth. It won't have dramatic effects, as you only swish it in your mouth for a brief time, but it offers a way to increase your tooth whiteness slightly.

Gel strips are a user-friendly way to apply whitening gel. You keep these on for approximately an hour to let the chemicals work into your teeth. The price range is roughly $25 to $50.

You may choose to get a custom whitening tray created for your at-home use. The process is almost identical to the dental procedure, except that you won't have access to professional grade supplies or oversight throughout the process.

Teeth Whitening Side Effects

The whitening agents used in the gel can be harsh. If you know that your teeth are sensitive, you may want to stick with a more mild option. Toothpaste for sensitive teeth can help with some of these side effects. An in-office treatment can also work out better in this case, as custom fitted trays and gum protectors can decrease the chances of irritation.

It's also possible to whiten your teeth too much, which can make your natural teeth appear much brighter than fillings, crowns and implants. If you go overboard on the brightness levels, you could also end up with a grey cast on the enamel.

The price of professional whitening is significantly higher than at-home products, but the brightening effect and comfort level are also better. Take into account the level of whitening you're looking for, your budget and whether tooth sensitivity could come into play when making your decision.

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