Are your teeth as white as you’d like them to be? If not, consider booking an appointment with your dental hygienist to get your smile a spring cleaning. And if you want a smile that really sparkles, schedule a tooth whitening treatment with your dentist.
You may be able to brighten your teeth by a shade or two using over-the-counter (OTC) products, but a professional whitening treatment typically provides greater results. Talk to your dentist to see which type of treatment is best for you. There are three options to choose from:
In Office: Your dentist applies a peroxide gel to your teeth, and then activates the solution via a high-intensity light. This takes about an hour, and depending on the condition of your teeth, the sensitivity of your gums, and your desired results you may need more than one appointment to complete the treatment. Average cost is $450-$600.
At Home: Your dentist will custom-fit a set of “whitening trays,” (flexible molds which you’ll place over your teeth) or will provide you with a kit that contains the trays and a peroxide gel. The whitening product used is weaker than the one utilized in the dentist’s office, but more powerful than an over-the-counter product. Typically, you’ll wear the trays for 4-8 hours daily over the course of ten days. Average cost is $400-$500.
Over-The-Counter: You can just choose a whitening kit or strips from the drugstore. These products use hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to brighten your teeth. The products you purchase over the counter will be weaker than ones intended for professional use, as exposure to high strength peroxide can damage your gums (your dentist will protect your gums with a shield or gel when doing a whitening treatment). The best way to use OTC products is after you’ve had a dental cleaning – otherwise you’ll just be brightening up your dental plaque and tartar. Check with your hygienist for product recommendations, and how long you should wait after the cleaning before using a whitening treatment.
Natural: You can also try natural tooth whitening practices. While these will definitely not give you the whitening boost you’ll get from peroxide, eating crunchy fruits and vegetables can help to keep teeth white and may lift some light stains. And chewing sugar-free gum helps promote saliva production, essential for clean and healthy teeth and gums.
Shortly after whitening, your tooth enamel is extra absorbent so be careful about what you drink and eat in the week following your treatment. Obvious things to avoid include coffee, tea, cola drinks and red wine, but be aware that foods such as ketchup, soy sauce, or foods containing colorful spices such as turmeric or saffron can also stain your newly whitened teeth.
It’s also best to avoid acidic or icy cold foods and drinks, as your gums and teeth will likely be sensitive after a whitening treatment. In fact, it’s best to schedule your appointment two or three weeks before any big event as your teeth will likely be sensitive for a week or so following the treatment.
Ask your dentist for advice before trying at home whitening products if you’ve had restorative treatments such as bonding, veneers, crowns, fillings in the front of your teeth, or if your teeth are badly stained. Do-it-yourself whitening treatments can damage previous dental work, or result in unevenly colored teeth.
Absolutely check with your dentist before whitening your teeth if you have gum disease, fragile dental enamel, sensitive teeth, or specific medical conditions.
Carefully read labels before buying products – the American Dental Association warns that OTC products containing over 10 percent hydrogen peroxide or 35 percent carbamide peroxide can damage your gums. Dentists can use products that are 25 to 40 percent hydrogen peroxide, as a professional treatment also includes gum protection. That’s why a professional tooth whitening treatment will always be far more effective than one done with OTC products. Of course, getting your teeth whitened at the dentist will also cost hundreds of dollars more than using a bleach kit from the drugstore or Amazon.
Dental insurance typically does not provide coverage for any cosmetic treatments such as whitening. But dental savings plans, an alternative to traditional dental insurance, often do provide an average discount of 20% off professional whitening treatments from a nationwide network of dentists.
Dental savings plans also provide savings of 10%-60% on a wide variety of preventive dental care —including cleanings, checkups and x-rays—and restorative treatments. Dental savings plans typically can be used within 72 hours of purchase or less (and many plans activate within 24 hours).
Find out more about dental savings plans at dentalplans.com.
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