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Talk with Your Dentist Before You Whiten Your Teeth

You may not know what’s in store with store-bought whitening products.

Walk down the aisle where the oral care products are kept in a large drugstore. Near the toothpastes, mouthwashes, and floss, you’ll see a staggering array of over-the-counter (OTC) products that promise a dazzling smile and whiter teeth. Some of them work well.

But what you won’t see in that aisle is the dentist. When choosing an OTC product to whiten your teeth, you don’t get your dentist’s education, training, and experience. You don’t get his or her judgment.

Although you’ll save money when you choose OTC tooth-whitening products instead of the dentist’s methods, the results may not be everything you expected.

Even if you want to try to whiten your teeth at home, American Dental Association experts recommend that you see your dentist first. Why? Because you want to rule out dental problems such as periodontal (gum) disease before you try to find the perfect OTC tooth whitener. Whitening your teeth won’t fix those problems and can even aggravate them.

Also, many people don’t realize that previous restorations in their mouth won’t whiten along with their natural teeth. These include crowns and fillings. Tooth whiteners do not work as well on antibiotic-stained teeth either. And they do not correct all discoloration. Yellow and brown teeth respond better to bleaching than gray teeth.

Another advantage of scheduling a visit with your dentist before you decide to whiten your teeth is that the dentist can explain all your options and tell you the advantages and disadvantages of each method. Perhaps you will decide to start with professional whitening and then use OTC products between visits. If you elect to whiten your teeth by yourself, your dentist can recommend the best product for you. The dentist can also explain what he or she is able to do for you.

OTC products are not custom-fit. A dentist can make custom trays that fit perfectly in your mouth. You can use the trays at home. He or she can usually provide stronger bleaching agents than you would get in an OTC tooth whitener, too. The dentist can also offer you an in-office tooth-whitening treatment that can be done in a single office visit, using the most powerful bleaching solution. This takes about 30 to 60 minutes.

Tooth whitening can cause sensitivity in the teeth and gums in some people. If you have this side effect, whether the whitening was done by the dentist or by yourself, call your dentist.

“Different Whitening Options Produce Similar Results.” Know Your Teeth, Academy of General Dentistry, January 2012.
http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=D&iid=300&aid=3175  Accessed 2013.

“Whitening.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. 
http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/w/whitening.aspx Accessed 2013.

“Tooth Whitening Systems.” American Dental Hygienists’ Association. 
http://www.adha.org/resources-docs/7227_Tooth_Whitening.pdf Accessed 2013.

“How Can I Brighten My Smile: What's Involved?” Know Your Teeth, Academy of General Dentistry, January 2012.
http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=h&iid=290&aid=1122 Accessed 2013.

“How Can I Brighten My Smile?” Know Your Teeth, Academy of General Dentistry, January 2012.
http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=H&iid=290&aid=1122 Accessed 2013.

“Teeth Whitening.” American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
http://www.aacd.com/index.php?module=cms&page=568 Accessed 2013.

Author: Bramnick, Jeffrey
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