Being a cosmetic dentist, many patients ask me about teeth whitening. And while it’s completely natural for the color of your teeth to change over time, many people wish that their teeth were a little whiter. Many factors can affect the color, from age to stains (from eating, drinking, and smoking).
Medication can also affect the color of your teeth, and certain stains from long-term medication use cannot be whitened, but other than that, almost any other type of stains can be lessened by using either in-office or OTC whitening.
When it comes to teeth whitening, as with many things, you get what you pay for, in a sense. When compared to in-office whitening, over-the-counter options are cheaper, but they’re also less effective.
Let’s take a closer comparison between the two.
OTC methods of whitening can be bought without a prescription and can be used in the comfort of your home. The three most popular options for OTC whitening are:
- Whitening Toothpaste: ideally, you brush twice a day. They can be used in tandem with whitening mouthwashes. The results occur gradually over time, and usually require you to continue buying the toothpaste to get the best results.
- Whitening Strips: usually used once a day, whitening strips are applied to the teeth and removed after a specific amount of time. The treatment duration lasts at least a week, if not more.
- Whitening Gels or Pastes: the gel or paste is placed in a tray that you wear like a retainer for a certain amount of time
If time is an issue, an in-office whitening may be the best method for you. It’s the fastest method, and will yield almost immediate results. The formula is usually applied directly to the teeth, after which you have to wait 30 min to an hour. Although you may notice results almost immediately, getting your teeth dramatically whiter usually requires a few appointments.