Having whiter teeth is something that crosses everyone’s mind sometime or another, but the right method of whitening differs for each person. There are several products on the market that claim to whiten teeth at home for a fraction of the cost of in-office procedures. This triggers the questions, Do they really work? Are they safe? Should you use them? The answers to these questions are not as simple as you might think. Further inspection into the teeth whitening process might be necessary to help you decide if professional care is right for you.

How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

The whitening process is much simpler to understand than you might imagine, however, there are a few steps that you are probably unaware of. Like most dentist visits, the process starts with a thorough cleaning of your teeth. The less bacteria and plaque build up that the whitening product has to penetrate, the better. You can enhance this process by completing a thorough teeth cleaning at-home before you arrive at the dentist.

Next, you will consult with the dentist about the shade of whiteness you want to achieve. Once you have come to a decision about the level of whiteness you would like, your dentist or dental hygienist will apply a dental dam. A dental dam is a thin sheet, made of latex, that is used to isolate teeth that are being worked on. The dental dam is meant to protect the soft tissues of your mouth during the whitening process. The UV light that dentists use to help complete the whitening process can be very damaging to your mouth, so it is important to keep it protected.

After your teeth have been cleaned and the dental dam has been situated, cheek retractors will be placed to keep your mouth open and keep your soft tissue away from the whitener. The dentist will then brush the whitener gel onto your teeth in an even layer, painting each individual tooth to ensure uniform treatment. Once your teeth have been coated, a light, typically UV, will be shined on the gel to activate it. This lighting process takes approximately 15 to 30 minutes. After the whitening process is completed, the dentist will then clean your teeth again to remove any remaining gel and determine how well the treatment worked. Some treatments require multiple steps in the process while others just require one single treatment.

Why Should You Whiten Teeth Professionally?

The main reason to seek professional care for teeth whitening is that dentists have access to more powerful whitening solutions. More powerful whitening solutions will be able to get your teeth much whiter with less effort and less damage in the long run. Another reason to seek professional care is that dentists know how to and have the tools to protect your gums and teeth from damage. A dentist will be able to deliver much faster results than any at-home kits.

How to Avoid Discoloration After Whitening

As whitening your teeth requires time and money, you are going to want to keep your teeth white after the process. To reduce discoloration after whitening, try to avoid highly acidic foods and liquids. Acidic foods can erode your teeth’s enamel and allow for more stains to reach your teeth. Try to avoid things like coffee, dark sodas, and foods with artificial dye. Although avoiding these things is not always feasible, there are some tips to try to help with the process. Try drinking coffee through a straw, placing the liquid directly into the back of your mouth rather than having it pass over your teeth.

Brushing your teeth after eating and drinking will help limit the tarnishing of your newly whitened smile. You can try using enamel strengthening and whitening toothpastes to increase the barrier between your teeth and the foods that might stain them. Your dentist may recommend scheduling several teeth cleanings following the whitening procedure as well as a follow-up session to help get your smile back to sparkling.

While at-home whitening kits may seem appealing due to low cost and convenience, the truth is that these kits rarely deliver long-lasting results. Taking the time to consult with your dentist about teeth whitening can actually save you time, frustration, and money in the long run. Professional teeth cleaning is the way to go if you seek whiter teeth in a healthy and quick fashion.