According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, tooth whitening is the most requested form of cosmetic dentistry. With greater visibility due to social media and other areas, more people are looking to both dentists and over-the-counter products to whiten teeth and produce a more aesthetically pleasing smile. Continue improvement of these products has made it easier and less expensive to obtain whiter teeth.
While there are many kinds of toothpaste available on the market that claim to whiten teeth they typically use an abrasive compound to remove stains and a very mild whitening agent. The problem with this approach is that based on how it works, in order to be effective the agent needs to remain in contact with the tooth for an extended period of time. This need has led to the development of trays and strips that are designed to stay on the teeth long enough to allow for proper cleaning by the whitening agent.
The active whitening agent used in the tooth whitening process is peroxide. When peroxide comes into contact with the tooth it releases free radicals which oxidize stain-producing compounds within the tooth's enamel. Doing so reduces the staining effects and restores whiteness to the teeth. When choosing tooth whitening products it is important to compare not only the concentration of the peroxide within the liquid but also to know the difference between the two commonly used types of peroxide:
- Whitening Strips - this product uses a 6-14 percent concentration of hydrogen peroxide. This form of peroxide while effective has a much faster time release and tend to release over half of the peroxide within 30 minutes of use.
- Whitening Gel - typically contains a concentration of 10-35 percent peroxide in the form of carbamide peroxide. Carbamide peroxide has a much slower release of the peroxide and remains effective for up to 6 hours after application.
Based on the higher concentration of peroxide and longer release time the effectiveness of the whitening gel is significantly better than the whitening strips. The downside, however, is that while still safe, the higher concentration can lead to a higher degree of tooth sensitivity.
While there continue to be better products available over the counter, the best approach to tooth whitening is to have it performed by a qualified dental professional. Not only does this ensure that the correct product is used, but also that it is applied in the correct manner to be the safest and effective.
Contact a dental office like Scott W. Murphy, D.M.D., P.A. for more information and assistance.