Most of us wouldn’t mind making our pearly whites a little brighter. Teeth can get discolored from tea, coffee and wine stains, smoking or simply from growing older. But if you want to whiten your teeth at home with a teeth-whitening kit, here are five things you should do.
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1. Know the risks of using teeth whiteners
“Whitening is very safe, but you should use it judiciously,” says Hadie Rifai, DDS. “Overuse can cause tooth pain or sensitivity. You should consult your dentist before using prescription dental whitening products.”
Additionally, the American Dental Association (ADA) Council on Scientific Affairs has monitored the development of tooth-whitening products for roughly two decades, as they continued to become more popular.
However, Dr. Rifai cautions that if you have periodontal disease, you should not use the home whitening products without first consulting a professional.
2. Be aware of the different types of whiteners
The ADA worked to define exactly what “whitening” means and how the process of making teeth appear whiter works. You can whiten your teeth with peroxide-containing bleaching agents or whitening toothpastes that rely on abrasive agents.
A bleaching product contains peroxides that help remove deep and surface stains on your teeth, actually changing the natural tooth color.
A non-bleaching whitening product contains agents that work by physical (abrasion) or chemical action to remove only surface stains from your teeth.
You should be aware that over-the-counter whiteners contain only up to 10 percent peroxide versus the prescription strength whiteners that contain 20 to 40 percent peroxide.
“Just because the OTC doesn’t give you good results, that doesn’t mean the higher strength whiteners won’t work for you,” Dr. Rifai explains.
3. Ask your dentist if teeth whitening is right for you
When you talk with your dentist, he or she can tell you whether whitening procedures would be effective for you.
For example, if you have yellowish-hued teeth, they will be more likely to bleach well than brownish-colored teeth, while grayish-hued teeth may not bleach well at all, according to the ADA.
4. Understand that bonding and tooth-colored fillings can’t be bleached
The ADA also notes that if you have had bonding or tooth-colored fillings placed in your front teeth, using a whitener will not affect the color of these materials.
That means they will stand out in your newly whitened smile. The ADA recommends that you investigate other options, such as porcelain veneers or dental bonding.
“All dental work should be done after bleaching, because dental fillings don’t bleach,” Dr. Rifai explains. “So if you get a front tooth filled or crowned and then bleach your teeth, that filling/crown will not change color, causing the smile to be unaesthetic.”
5. Look for the seal of approval
Remember, too, that when you select a teeth whitener, just as you do when purchasing toothpaste or any dental care product, make sure you look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance.