If you choose to go to a dentist to have your teeth professionally whitened, you’ll be getting your teeth chemically bleached. Dentists whiten teeth using peroxide, the same bleaching ingredient found in at-home tooth whitening gels. The difference is that dentists can use a different type and much higher concentrated amount of this bleaching agent than is allowed for over-the-counter gels, strips, or toothpastes. This means that you can get a whiter shade more quickly, though there is a high price for that fast process. Getting your teeth bleached at the dentist’s office can cost as much as $500 per session, while you can try out solutions at home that are pretty effective for a fraction of that price. I know what method I’d prefer!
What Whitening Procedure Do Dentists Use?
The dentist will most likely start out by cleaning and polishing the surface of your teeth using an abrasive to remove surface stains, then begin the bleaching process by covering your gums to protect them from exposure to the peroxide. The type of peroxide used will either be hydrogen peroxide or the weaker carbamide peroxide, which is found in some whitening products that you can buy for home use, including my preferred whitening toothpaste.
Carbamide peroxide breaks down into hydrogen peroxide, so it has about a third the bleaching strength of the same concentration of hydrogen peroxide. This means that a 30% solution of carbamide peroxide is roughly as effective as a 10% solution of hydrogen peroxide.
The dentist will cover your gums because exposure to the peroxide can cause burning or irritation that can last for a few days after the bleaching is done. The bleaching process can also increase your teeth sensitivity for a time, resulting in some pain or discomfort from hot and cold temperatures and touch. That’s a definite downside of using chemicals to whiten your teeth; consider a natural alternative if that bothers you. If you want to go ahead within the office or at home bleaching, consider using toothpaste for sensitive teeth afterward.
The bleaching process should take less than an hour per session, and the number of sessions depends on the severity of your tooth discoloration and how white a shade you want to achieve. Personally, I think you should try out at-home bleaching gels like this one first and see if you’re satisfied with the results before spending the money required for a dentist to simply apply peroxide to your teeth. You can do that yourself at home, albeit with a lower concentrated amount of carbamide peroxide, but you’ll still get whiter teeth without having it cost you an arm and a leg.
Depending on how badly yellowed your teeth happen to be, your dentist might want you to use an at-home whitening gel following your professional bleaching anyway to maintain the whitening and prevent further discoloration. You’ll want to avoid pigmented foods and drinks like coffee and stop smoking as well. Educate yourself on what causes yellow teeth and avoid those things.
If you don’t want to use chemicals to whiten your teeth and risk the negative side effects (like tooth sensitivity and pain), you should look at charcoal-based toothpastes.