The Pros and Cons of Teeth Whitening

teeth whitening

You brush your teeth after your morning coffee, but that bright white smile is just not there anymore. Years of eating and drinking foods that stain your teeth over time have taken their toll. There is much appeal to wanting whiter teeth, and many people are self-conscious about their smile. This can affect your confidence and interactions with other people.

But without knowing the pros and cons of teeth whitening, it’s hard to make an informed decision about whether or not it’s something you want to do. Below, Flintlock Dental will go over some information on teeth whitening to help you make the decision that is right for you!

Types of Teeth Whitening

There are two major options when it comes to whitening your teeth: office-based bleaching or at-home care. Both of these options use a peroxide-based bleaching agent. However, there is a difference in how much bleach is used. With at-home whitening, you get between 3% to 20% peroxide, while in an office you get 15% to 43% peroxide. You will pay more for the in-office treatments, but you will get a stronger whitening agent, and it will take less time overall to achieve the bright white smile you want.

In-Office Options:

Teeth whitening done by your dentist can get your teeth brighter faster. The solution is much stronger than what you get at home, and the use of heat and light can be used to speed up the whitening process.

Teeth generally get three to eight shades brighter after office whitening. This process takes several 30- to 60-minute in-office visits. There are some dentists who use a technique that can be done in a single two-hour office visit. The cost of an in-office tooth whitening process varies, but usually ranges from $500 to $1000.

In-Home Options:

There are several methods you can choose from for at-home teeth whitening:

Tooth Whitening Strips/Gel - Gel is applied directly to the teeth with a brush or thin strip. These peroxide-based products usually need to be applied once or twice a day for 10 to 14 days. The results last four or more months and may cost anywhere from $10 to $55.

Tray-Based System - This system uses a mouth guard tray that is filled with a peroxide-based gel or paste and is placed over the teeth for one to several hours a day for up to four weeks. You can buy this system over the counter or get one custom fit by your dentist. The cost ranges from $150 to $600.

Tooth Whitening Toothpaste - Every toothpaste helps remove stains, but whitening toothpastes contain chemicals that help scrub stains from teeth without the aid of a bleaching agent. The toothpastes are relatively inexpensive and brighten teeth by about one shade. Some pastes contain peroxide, but it isn’t left on the teeth long enough to really have a whitening benefit.

Pros of Teeth Whitening

The biggest benefit of teeth whitening is mostly cosmetic. According to a study by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, most people feel that attractive smiles make the opposite gender more attractive and an unattractive smile can hinder both relationship and employment success.

What it comes down to is confidence. More confidence can help you become more successful in many endeavors, and having your teeth whitened can boost your confidence.

Cons of Teeth Whitening

There are a few side effects that you need to be aware of if you do decide to whiten your teeth. The major factors are that it can cause tooth sensitivity and gum irritation.

Some dentists have noted that the gum irritation can be due to teeth whitening trays fitting wrong and not due to the bleaching agent itself, so you want to make sure you have the correct tray for your teeth before you use it. Also, most sensitivity and tissue irritation will often disappear within three days of completing your treatment.

A review done in 2014 reported that strong bleaching agents can cause soft tissue burns. This will result in a burning sensation in your throat or cause an upset stomach. This same review also goes on to note that there is still controversy on whether or not teeth bleaching affects the physical structure of the teeth, including the enamel, making it weaker and more prone to cavities.

Tooth whitening is not for everyone. It can be expensive and does not always work on all types of tooth discoloration. It’s also only a temporary solution to the problem, since stains will return over time. The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that whitening agents are not effective on veneers, crowns, fillings, or caps, and will not work on discoloration that is brown, gray, or caused by injury or medication.

How Safe is Tooth Whitening and When to Avoid It

In most cases, if the instructions are followed correctly, using a peroxide-based tooth whitening agent is safe. These types of products include toothpastes, strips, gels, tray-based whiteners, and in-office treatments.

Whether you do the in-home treatment or office treatment, it is recommended that any teeth whitening should be supervised by a dentist to reduce any possible risks. The ADA recommends that you whiten your teeth only after consulting with your dentist, so you know that the method you choose is right for you.

Tooth Whitening Overall

Knowing the pros and cons of tooth whitening will help you make an informed decision about what technique is right for you to use. If you use the teeth whitening agents properly, they are considered safe and will show results. Teeth whitening is not for everyone, and each case is different. To make sure it is right for you, consult with your dentist before you do any kind of whitening at home or in your dentist's office.

Want to learn more about oral health? Check out Flintlock Dental’s other blogs, such as this one that goes over the basics of gingivitis!