How Effective Are At Home Teeth Whitening Products?


Tony Clemente, Senior Staff Writer

Tony Clemente has been writing for newspapers, magazines, websites, and other publications for over 20 years, covering subjects as diverse as lifestyle trends in the Southwest, health and wellness tips for Medicare recipients, and world-class quality improvement processes for major corporations. In addition to spending time under the knife during two major and five minor surgeries, Mr. Clemente has written extensively about cosmetic surgery procedures, including cosmetic dentistry, hair restoration, and bariatric weight-loss surgery. He has a BA in history from Williams College.

November 07 2007

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At-Home Teeth Whitening

At-home teeth whitening products are surging in popularity these days, producing sales of almost $1.5 billion in 2006 alone.  It's not hard to figure out why: A dazzling smile can turn heads, open doors, and even help to close deals, and sparkling white teeth are, of course, the main foundation of an attractive smile.

At-home teeth whitening products, including strips, trays, ionic white lights, and toothpaste, offer both convenience and, typically, a lower upfront cost than professional teeth whitening services do, two factors that may be driving the public trend toward do-it-yourself teeth whitening systems.

Still, popularity isn't a good way to measure the effectiveness of any product or service. While at-home teeth whitening products can provide successful results, the best teeth whitening approaches, such as laser teeth whitening, are the in-office services offered by professional dental practitioners.

At-Home Teeth Whitening vs. Professional Teeth Whitening

There are a variety of reasons why over-the-counter teeth whitening systems can fall short of expectations, including the following:

One size doesn't fit all. At-home teeth whitening trays aren't customized to the individual user's mouth, which can result in leakage and/or an uneven application of the teeth whitening chemicals. There are some products that allow users to send in an impression of their teeth for a better fit, which is a better option, but that opens up the possibility for errors in producing and returning the customized tray.

There is no professional oversight. There are a variety of reasons why teeth can lose their brightness, and not all of these problems can be "cured" by at-home teeth whitening systems. At the very least, users of over-the-counter whiteners should consult with their regular dentist before taking the do-it-yourself route, just to find out whether the whiteners can address the cause of their less-than-white teeth.

People want results yesterday. In our instant-gratification society, people expect immediate returns on their investments, even investments on teeth whitening. At-home teeth whitening users sometimes try to speed up the process by doubling or even tripling the application time. This can lead to over-bleaching, which can cause splotching, uneven results, and in some cases heightened tooth sensitivity to hot and cold extremes.

It's not professional-grade whitening. In order to protect consumers, items that can be sold over the counter are usually less powerful than the full-strength versions of professional teeth whitening products available to dentists and cosmetic dental surgeons. Dental professionals can also draw upon their experience with laser teeth whitening systems and other techniques to focus on the root causes of darker teeth.

For the most part, at-home teeth whitening products can brighten people's teeth when they are used properly, but for the best teeth whitening results, the safest, most promising course of treatment is to consult with licensed dentists and cosmetic dental surgeons.