For an industry that currently generates billions of dollars in annual revenue in the U.S. alone, teeth whitening has humble beginnings in ancient folk medicine. Documents survive from both ancient Rome and ancient Egypt describing powders and potions designed to remove dark tooth stains and restore a youthful whiteness. These day, teeth whitening has been refined to a science and is safer and more effective than in years past. However, your satisfaction with your results depends on finding the right teeth whitening system for your needs.
Take Home Whitening Kits
The most popular and safest professional teeth whitening system is only available through your dentist (whitening products available in stores aren’t as powerful and highly concentrated whiteners available online are often unregulated and risky). Teeth whitening kits consist of a set of custom-fitted plastic trays that you take home from the dentist’s office along with several tubes of powerful whitening gel. You simply fill the trays with gel, slip them over your teeth, and wear them for the duration prescribed by your dentist. Whiter teeth are apparent almost immediately, with full results taking 1-2 weeks.
In-Office “Power” Whitening Treatment
In-office whitening treatments give you dramatic results similar to what you can expect from a take-home whitening kit in a single hour-long appointment at the dentist’s office. After protecting your gums with a flexible, protective barrier, your dentist or hygienist applied a highly concentrated whitening gel to your teeth and exposes them to a special light which activates the gel. This process may be repeated several times until the desired shade is reached.
What to Do When Whitening Doesn’t Work
Unfortunately, teeth whitening products are not effective at removing stains that are set deeply within the tooth (also referred to as “intrinsic” stains). Luckily, your dentist still has a number of treatment options to help you achieve a more attractive, whiter smile:
- Cosmetic bonding: Using color-matched dental resin (the same kind he uses to fill in cavities, incidentally), your dentist can mask severe stains and even repair small chips in the teeth.
- Porcelain veneers: Stronger and longer-lasting than cosmetic bonding, veneers are an eggshell-thin covering made of dental porcelain that is placed directly on the front surface of the tooth to hide severe stains and a number of other cosmetic flaws.