If you’re tired of the yellowing around your front teeth, a tray with whitening gel might be just what you need. But how does it work?
For many people, their smiles are often on full display for others to see — and judge by appearance alone. If you hate the way your smile looks, there’s no better time than now to do something about it!
Even though some treatments like teeth whitening take more effort, they can provide dramatic results when applied correctly. The good news is that most treatments don’t require surgery or extensive dental training, and most are relatively painless.
Teeth whitening has become increasingly popular as cosmetic dentistry procedures have grown popular. In fact, in 2017, Americans spent 1 billion dollars on over-the-counter bleaching products.
Various at-home options exist, including gels, strips, rinses, mouth trays, and custom-fit trays made specifically for your pearly whites. Some treatments may even come with particular light sources to speed up the process.
In this article, we’ll talk about how teeth whitening works, whether an at-home option will suit you best, and which side effects to look out for if you choose to use it. Read on to learn more.
Does Teeth Whitening Gel Work?
Before any treatment begins, the first step is to get rid of stains. You should also know precisely what kind of result you’d like from your whitening efforts. For example, if you’ve got stains caused by drink, tobacco, or foods, a simple at-home whitener probably won’t cut it.
However, if you have stains caused by coffee or tea, a stronger bleach could help give you whiter teeth faster.
Many treatments fall into one of two categories. One type uses peroxides (such as carbamide peroxide) to break down stains in the enamel layer of your teeth. Another method employs hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which breaks down stains more profound in the tooth’s layers. Both types of bleaches can irritate, so follow the directions carefully.
Both kinds of bleaching solutions typically contain small amounts of acid. This helps them remove surface stains, but it also weakens the structure of your teeth, especially those that aren’t fully covered with enamel.
To protect your teeth during the whitening process, make sure to brush your teeth right after each application. Also, avoid using other abrasive cleaners such as mouthwash and toothpaste while you wear the whitening solution.
Most whitening products generally last between three and six months. Afterward, you’ll have to reapply the product every few weeks to maintain the level of whiteness you were looking for. It’s important to remember that although many whiteners claim to prevent gum irritation, some studies show that these claims are either unfounded or exaggerated.
Now let’s move on to find out what side effects to watch for if you decide to go the at-home route instead of getting a professional whitening treatment.
Is At-Home Teeth Whitening Gel Safe To Use?
Before you start applying teeth whitening gel anywhere near your face, it’s essential to consider its ingredients. First, you should know that all whitening products are not created equal. They vary widely in strength and effectiveness — and sometimes, they can even cause problems. Be aware that some whitening gels contain acids that can irritate sensitive skin or dry out mucous membranes.
It would help if you also kept in mind that certain ingredients can increase the risk of staining in your teeth. For example, tartaric acid found in many whitening formulas has been shown to reduce the amount of calcium available for bonding with resin composite fillers used to restore decayed teeth [sources: Lin et al., Chavan]. Other chemicals called chelants can also negatively affect the adhesion of filling material [sources: Lin et al., Chavan].
Finally, don’t forget to check labels for possible allergens in the formula. Many whitening creams contain benzoyl peroxide, which can trigger severe allergic reactions in specific individuals.
With this information in hand, you can feel confident about choosing a safe at-home whitening regimen. Now let’s talk about some specific side effects associated with different types of teeth whitening methods.
Side Effects of Whitening Gel
As we mentioned earlier, many whitening products contain chemicals that can weaken the underlying structure of your teeth. Because of this, many whitening products have been banned in Europe due to health concerns.
As a general rule, you should avoid products containing harsh bleaching agents such as sodium hydroxide (lye) and hydroxyapatite (a form of calcium). Instead, opt for safer bleaching compounds like oxalates, acetate, and citric acid. These substances tend to pose fewer risks to your overall health.
Another potential problem with whitening products is that they can encourage bacteria growth. By removing harmful plaque buildup from your teeth, whitening products can prevent oral infections. So if you notice signs of gum inflammation or soreness after whitening, stop immediately and consult your dentist.
One final thing worth mentioning is that the same peroxide that causes whitening happens to burn hair and skin. Therefore, if you suffer from severe burns or sunburn, you may want to skip the whitening process altogether.
Next up, read on to discover how to use teeth whitening gel safely and effectively.
While some people prefer to have their teeth professionally treated, others believe that home remedies are enough to get the job done. Let’s say you’re one of those folks who think at-home treatments work fine. Then why would you pay someone else thousands of dollars for a procedure that you can perform yourself for much less money?
Some people refuse to spend the money on expensive procedures unless they absolutely must. Others worry about the long wait times required for appointments in person. And still, others are wary of trusting their precious teeth to the hands of strangers.
Whatever your reason, you should always weigh your choices against your personal preferences and financial situation before deciding whether to seek professional care or attempt at-home whitening.
How To Use Teeth Whitening Gel At Home
When you’re ready to begin using a whitening gel, be sure to follow the instructions closely. Most treatments include several steps, and each involves washing and drying your mouth thoroughly before beginning.
Once you put on the whitening gel, you shouldn’t eat or smoke anything for 30 minutes or longer. Keep in mind that you should avoid brushing your teeth during this period.
During the actual treatment, you should expect mild discomfort ranging from slight tingling or burning sensations to minor swelling. Occasionally, whitening gels can cause temporary sensitivity. Don’t panic if this occurs — it usually goes away within a day or two.
After the treatment is complete, continue to rinse your mouth thoroughly with water for five to 10 minutes to ensure thorough cleaning. Your gums should be free of saliva and any whitening compound for at least 20 minutes. When you return home, you should refrain from eating or drinking anything until your next appointment, which should occur four days later.
Overall, whitening gels can offer safe and effective ways to eliminate the unsightly discoloration. Just follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and never exceed the recommended dosages. Talk to your dentist if you experience any unusual symptoms or complications.
There’s no hard evidence proving that teeth whitening gels can damage the restorative materials used to cover damaged teeth. However, because of the chemical properties of these compounds, treating decay underneath a whitening gel could create conditions under which bacteria can thrive. Therefore, it’s important to treat existing cavities or cracks before starting a whitening program.