As a dentist I am frequently asked about the differences between the teeth whitening products available for purchase at drugstores and grocery stores, versus the ones we provide in a dental office. Many people believe that because the products all use the same whitening ingredient, hydrogen peroxide, any difference in quality is negligible. There are also plenty of people who think dentist-provided whitening treatments are just a racket to make more money, which I know is not true--and I'll explain why! |
Yes, all teeth whiteners use hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth, because this product is the best at breaking down the pigment stains that embed themselves in our tooth enamel. Peroxide releases oxygen bubbles, which dissolve the stains, much the same way club soda bubbles can remove a fresh stain from your clothing or carpet. But the bottom line is that over-the-counter products do not work as well for two reasons: quality of ingredients, and delivery method.
The problem with store bought products is that they are made in a one-size-fits-all delivery method. Whitening strips and trays that don't fit your mouth properly are going to be an inefficient method of delivering the whitening gel to your teeth. When the tray is too big, it will slide around and spread the gel over your gums and the product becomes diluted by saliva. When the tray is too small, it doesn't cover all of your teeth properly. This lowers the effectiveness. You are also going to be less inclined to wear the tray or strip for the recommended period of time if the gel has spread to your gum tissue, because it creates a painful burning sensation when peroxide is in extended contact with your gums.
Dentist-provided whitening systems are customized to fit your mouth, so the gel stays in contact with your tooth enamel and doesn't get diluted by your saliva. It makes a big difference in the results you see, having a delivery method that fits over your teeth like a glove. Whether you are getting a fast in-office treatment or using a dentist-provided system you use at home, you get a much better product that brings you faster whitening results.
Quality of Ingredients
The other problem with store-bought products is that there is little dependability in the quality and concentration of the active ingredients. Yes, every box of whitener will have hydrogen peroxide in it, but how old is the peroxide? Has it been degraded by time or improper storage conditions? Hydrogen peroxide is a stable chemical, but it degrades over time and with the application of heat. If your whitening strips took a long journey in a hot transport vehicle, or were produced several years ago--there's no telling whether they will be effective enough to whiten your teeth efficiently. They may whiten your teeth, but at a rate so slow that you wear the strips for several months before you see dramatic results. Teeth whitening treatments should not be used constantly; non-stop whitening for several months at a time can demineralize tooth enamel before it can be remineralized by natural processes. It's safer to use a more powerful system for a shorter period of time that to be whitening your teeth ad infinitum.
Dentist-provided whitening treatments come in higher concentrations, and our manufacturers guarantee chemical integrity. This means you get the most powerful whitening gels when you buy the products that only dentists have access to.
Why Dentists Provide Cosmetic Treatments?
Why do dentists provide whiteners to our patients in the first place? We know people want to make their smiles look better, so we prefer it be done safely, in a way that doesn't lead to inadvertent damage to the teeth. Healthy teeth don't always look as pearly-white as Hollywood would have you believe they should be, so we help patients attain a more beautiful smile in a way we know will be safest and least harmful to your oral health.
Dr. Carl Futenma is a dentist practicing out of Vancouver, WA. To learn more about cosmetic dentistry, visit Dr. Futenma's blog on his dental practice website.
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