Our smile is our biggest facial asset, and yet as many of us feel self-conscious about our teeth, it is easy to see why teeth-whitening is the single most popular cosmetic dental treatment in the U.S. Thanks to innovations in dentistry there are now an abundance of over-the-counter teeth-whitening products available on the market to help you achieve a whiter, brighter smile in the comfort of your own home.
What stains can I expect an over-the-counter teeth whitening kit to remove?
Over-the-counter teeth whitening kits can remove the same stains as in-office and take-home teeth whitening procedures, and you can expect to see the improvement or total removal of stains primarily caused by:
- Tobacco use
- The consumption of certain staining foods and beverages including coffee, red wine, and dark or strongly colored fruits and vegetables
- Aging. As we get older our teeth may take on a yellow, grey, green, or brown hue.
What stains won’t be removed by over-the-counter teeth whitening kits?
Unfortunately, some stains are resistant to teeth whitening. These include:
- Teeth that have suffered trauma that has caused the dentin inside the tooth to darken
- Teeth affected by fluorosis
- Teeth with inorganic stains
- Teeth that are discolored from any form of internal damage
Are over-the-counter whitening kits as successful as in-office or take-home teeth whitening treatments?
Over-the-counter whitening kits are proven to be successful in removing some level of stains and significantly brightening teeth. However, they are provided with a lower dose of bleaching agent which is safe to be used by non-professionals and this means that the results are usually much less effective than take-home or in-office treatments.
Over-the-counter options include teeth-whitening strips, but these are only really effective on perfectly straight teeth. If your teeth are crooked, slanted, or overlapping, the gel may not reach all areas of the enamel which can result in uneven white patches that look substantially worse than the original discoloration.
Considerations for over-the-counter teeth whitening kits
Although over-the-counter teeth whitening kits are extremely common and popular cosmetic dental treatment, there are some considerations that you should be made aware of.
The results of bleaching cannot be guaranteed and may vary depending on external factors such as your age, your lifestyle and the extent of staining that is present. It may be necessary for you to bleach your teeth multiple times in order to achieve your desired result.
Bleaching of any kind is not a permanent solution, although there are things that you can do to prolong the results and extend the amount of time between bleaching sessions. If you are able to avoid nicotine, red wine, and other food containing tannins you should also be able to maintain your new brighter smile for longer.
Are over-the-counter teeth whitening kits right for me?
There are some patients who may not be suitable candidates for at-home teeth whitening. These include but are not limited to:
- Patients who have teeth that have become transparent as part of the aging process.
- Patients who have very extensive or intractable staining, as bleaching is unlikely to solve these problems.
- Patients who are sensitive to peroxide.
- Patients who have ultra-sensitive teeth or gums, which may be irritated by the chemicals used in the whitening process.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Not enough research has been done on the effect of whitening agents on unborn or nursing babies.
If you are in any doubt, speak to your dentist who will be able to advise you of your suitability for teeth whitening.
Types of over-the-counter teeth whitening kits
There is a large variety of over-the-counter teeth whitening kits. You should always choose one that has been approved by the American Dental Association (ADA).