"Tooth whitening" is a broad term, and it's sometimes hard to know what's the right tooth whitener for you. Wondering what your options are?
You'll get the most dramatic results if you see your dentist for instant whitening. Dentists apply a powerful bleaching agent to your teeth for a short period of time. (In laser teeth whitening, the dentist uses laser light to activate the bleaching agent.) The appointment typically takes about an hour and can lighten teeth by a number of shades. For deep-down tooth stains, multiple sessions may be required to achieve maximum brightness.
Your dentist can also give you a kit that allows you to bleach your teeth in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Your dentist will take molds of your teeth to create customized dental trays; made of thin plastic, the trays slide over your teeth and provide a tight seal. Each day (or night), you'll put a small amount of bleaching paste or gel in the trays, then slide them over your teeth. Most people wear the trays for about half an hour a day for two weeks.
If you're skipping the dentist and buying tooth whiteners at the store without a prescription, you're not getting the same type of whitening offered by cosmetic dentists. These products will do the job, but they will never be as effective as what you'll get from a dentist. By law, over-the-counter tooth whitening products cannot use as strong of bleaching agents as those used by licensed dentists.
These commercial products come in a number of forms. Whitening toothpaste has been around for a long time, and whitening strips have become increasingly popular. They may provide a bleaching gel that you paint on your teeth or apply via one-size-fits-all bleaching trays.
In considering your teeth bleaching options, you should ask yourself how much money you're willing to spend and how many shades whiter you want your teeth to be. Your dentist can also help you decide what's the right method for you.