Over-the-counter Teeth Whitening Products: Are They Worth the Buck?

Like it or not, we are living in a social media and ”selfie” era which plays a key role in making us more conscious about our aesthetic appearance.
Everyone wants whiter teeth these days. After all, a healthy, bright, white smile helps you look better and give you a new level of confidence.

Still, with all the over-the-counter teeth whitening products currently available in pharmacies, many people wonder if professional teeth whitening is truly worth the investment. People can get whitening toothpastes for very little money and teeth whitening professional treatments cost much more at the dentist.

DIY products come with some form of risk, whether it be health risk or durability issue.
As a general rule, all DIY products come with some form of risk, whether it be health risk or durability issue. This isn’t to say that it’s less effective if you do it right and if the product is good enough.

But if you decide to spend the extra cash and head on to your dental clinic for a professional teeth whitening, you should know what you’re paying for.

There are many products that you can find in the market from bleaching strips, to bleaching pens, bleaching gels, toothpastes and laser teeth whitening.

Let me go over them to explain you something important.

All the whitening products should contain hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide in order to have an effect on the brightness of the enamel, and they can differ in their mode of delivery.

Whitening toothpastes

Toothpastes which are advertised as “whitening” rarely contain any trace of carbamide peroxide, hydrogen peroxide or any other bleaching agent, so they don’t have any effect on the color of your teeth at all. Instead, they contain a higher content of abrasives and detergents to fight off tougher stains.

These kinds of toothpastes may be recommended only for heavy smokers in order to remove the black nicotine stains coating from the teeth, but they have to be avoided by other people because of their high abrasivity in the long term can cause damage on the enamel and even more stains accumulation (due to the small scratches and pores created on the enamel by the too abrasive brushing).

OTC Tray-based whitening systems

Over-the-counter tray-based systems in particular must be used with caution because ill-fitting trays can lead to soft-tissue injury (i.e. gum burns), malocclusion problems, and poor compliance.

Paint on whitening system and whitening strips

Non-tray options including a paint-on system and whitening strips, have recently become commericially available. These products are inexpensive, convenient and easy to use, and they represent the fastest growing segment of the retail market.

You have to be aware though, that in order to actually see a result with these low doses of peroxide products, you must use them with consistency and attention for a long time, usually from 2 to 4 weeks.

Usually these products are advisable not for the bleaching itself but for the maintenance of the result gained after the professional teeth whitening at the dentist’s chair, since they don’t deliver such a huge effect.

All the other above-mentioned whitening products should contain some peroxides in different concentration, usually in a low percentage in order not to damage the soft tissues (gums, lips, cheeks, skin). But because teeth whiteners are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, many retail products have not undergone rigorous, objective, clinical testing and hence may be of questionable efficacy and safety.

Professional teeth whitening

If you are looking to achieve dramatically white, yet natural-looking teeth, nothing delivers even close to the kinds of results you can get from teeth whitening administered by a dentist or dental hygienist.

Since a dental professional can create whitening trays to perfectly fit your unique jaw structure and tooth alignment, every tooth is given the maximum dose of whitening ingredients in each procedure. You also benefit from the stronger dosage of active ingredients when supervised by your dental hygienist. When teeth whitening is done by your dental hygienist, you get the sparkling smile you want much faster.

In the end, while cheaper options do exist, there is no other way to get the quick, effective results that a dental hygienist delivers. Plus, you know that your dentist or hygienist is never going to give you whitening substances that damage your teeth in the long run.

Remember, while most of the cells in the human body can regenerate, our teeth enamel cannot regrow once it is lost. When it comes to precious tissues in our body like our tooth enamel, my personal advice is to consult a specialist in this field, someone professionally trained to give you the best options to make your teeth shine bright without causing any permanent damage.
Martina Crisma
Dental Hygienist, Italy
Umm Suqeim Clinic, Dubai


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