Over-the-counter tooth whitening products: Are they worth the cost?

In an image-conscious world full of digitally altered magazine pictures and social media selfies, the way we look plays a key role in how we perceive ourselves. Having a bright white smile can help boost confidence levels and improve our daily lives – but with so many over-the-counter whitening options, how do you know which to choose? Let’s take a look at each in depth.


Whitening toothpastes

It sounds almost too good to be true – simply brushing your teeth with a special brand of paste and achieving a whiter smile. And it is – most types of toothpaste that are advertised as ‘whitening’ do not contain any of the ingredients needed to actually whiten teeth. Next time you pick one up in the supermarket, check the list of ingredients for hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide, or similar bleaching agents. The probability is that instead of any of these it will contain higher levels of stain-removing abrasives, so instead of whitening teeth the toothpaste simply removes tougher stains. Whitening toothpastes can increase tooth sensitivity and damage enamel, so while they may be beneficial for removing nicotine stains if you are a heavy smoker they are best avoided if you suffer from sensitive teeth.


Whitening trays

Tray-based whitening systems that you buy over-the-counter or order online use bleaching agents such as hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth over a period of time. Some trays are pre-filled with a whitening agent, while others come with syringes of gel that you squeeze into the trays as needed. You may find that the percentage of hydrogen peroxide used in over-the-counter trays is too low to make a dramatic difference in tooth shade. This type of whitening product should be used with caution because a one-size-fits-all-tray may result in bleaching agent leaking onto your gums, which can cause blistering and sensitivity.


Whitening strips

Peel-and-stick tooth whitening strips are easy to use at home and are fairly inexpensive. As with over-the-counter whitening trays you may find that the dosage of bleaching agent is too low to notice a huge difference in tooth shade. To see results, you will need to use the strips consistently for an extended period of time (usually 2-4 weeks). You should be careful to avoid your gums when using the strips, as the bleaching agent may cause soft tissue damage.


Professional tooth whitening

Professional tooth whitening differs from over-the-counter tray whitening systems. Firstly, the trays are custom-made to fit your teeth and, secondly, only qualified dental professionals can use the higher percentage of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide (regulated by the General Dental Council) to get the best results. Although more expensive than over-the-counter whitening options, there are several advantages to getting professional tooth whitening treatment from a qualified dentist. Since the whitening trays fit over your teeth perfectly, there is less risk of getting harmful bleaching agent on your gums and soft tissue. Professional whitening treatments use a stronger dose of active ingredients, so the results are more impressive than over-the-counter alternatives, and because the trays are created to fit your unique tooth structure, every tooth gets an even coating of whitening agent, ensuring an even and natural-looking result.


If you are interested in learning more about the whitening treatments we offer here at Exeter Advanced Dentistry, contact one of our friendly team members today. We will be happy to advise you on the best solution for you.

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