by Richard A Huot, DDS
One of the things patients wonder about the most in cosmetic services today is how to whiten teeth. According to a survey by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, almost all adults believe an attractive smile is an important social asset and important in the workforce, but people have a lot of questions on what methods are available to them. Fortunately, teeth whitening is one of the easiest and most economical ways to improve your smile, and most methods are also easily acquired. But before you begin, it is important to determine what you want to achieve with whitening. After a consultation with your dentist, you can then put a plan of action together on what's best for whitening your teeth. There are three basic methods you can use to whiten your teeth: In-Office Whitening This process involves making an appointment with your dentist to have a special concentrated gel applied to your teeth. It usually takes about 20-30 minutes for the gel to work, but your appointment time in the chair can last up to an hour. Because the gel may cause tooth sensitivity, the dentist may instruct you to brush your teeth with a desensitizing toothpaste such as Colgate® Sensitive for some time after the appointment. The in-office whitening method may take several appointments, and the dentist may give you custom mouth trays with a weaker gel material to continue the process at home. At-Home Whitening This method is similar to in-office whitening, but you do the whitening at home with a milder whitening gel. You'll wear a set of custom trays at home for about a maximum of an hour per session, and stop when your teeth reach your desired shade. Eventually, though, your teeth will no longer whiten, and like the in-office method, at-home whitening may require you to use a desensitizing toothpaste for a certain amount of time. Another at-home whitening method is over-the-counter strips, which are directly applied to the teeth for about an hour a day. The results vary, just like tray applications. This method is most effective when the teeth are completely straight, as the plastic whitening strips must be able to touch the complete surface of each tooth. Quite often, however, the use of whitening strips is more expensive than specially designed whitening toothpastes. Whitening Toothpastes For a lot of patients, whitening toothpastes such as Colgate® Optic White® are good options for whitening teeth. By using a whitening toothpaste, not only are you taking advantage of the special whitening ingredients, but you're also keeping your gums and teeth healthy. Follow the product's instructions on how to whiten your teeth, and you can be on the road to a whiter, healthier smile in as little as one week. When selecting a whitening toothpaste, be sure to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which is your assurance that it has met the American Dental Association's standards for safely and effectiveness. The use of any of these three methods for how to whiten teeth will provide you with a healthy-looking smile. Consulting with your dentist or dental hygienist before you begin is the best way for you to guarantee a good result. About the author: Dr. Huot is the founder and CEO of Beachside Dental Consultants, Inc. He has lectured at many meetings across the country, and his past articles have been featured in Dental Products Report, Dental Economics, Dental Practice Report, ADA News, and state dental journals. Dr. Huot retired in 2012 as a colonel in the USAF Reserve Dental Corps after 30 years of service, with his last assignment serving as Commander of the 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Patrick AFB, Florida. A past president of the Maine Dental Association in 1994, and the 2006 president of the Atlantic Coast District Dental Association, Dr Huot currently serves as a member of the Florida Dental Association Board of Trustees, and a board member of the American Dental Association Council on Government Affairs. Dr. Huot is a Fellow of the American College of Dentists, the International College of Dentists, the Academy of General Dentistry, and the Pierre Fauchard Academy.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.