Take a few steps down any grocery or drugstore toothpaste aisle, and you see unmistakable evidence that manufacturers are eager to fulfill your desire for whiter, brighter teeth. From strips that whiten to pastes that brush the dullness away, numerous products pledge to you get closer to your perfect smile.

One problem is that they don’t all work the same. Some promise results after a week if you’re willing to commit to 30 minutes twice a day for each treatment. Others may take a month or longer to accomplish results. Many over-the-counter products only have enough whitening power to take your teeth a shade lighter, and that’s rarely enough to make a noticeable difference.

There’s also the question of tooth sensitivity, a common potential side effect, as well as how your gums are going to feel afterward. And is all this whitening good for your teeth?

Dr. Alvarado is happy to provide insight into how tooth whiteners work and a few tips on choosing a whitening method that does the job without compromising your oral health.

See your dentist first
The American Dental Association recommends that if you’re interested in whitening your teeth, see your dentist first to determine whether you’re a suitable candidate for the process. Teeth whitening doesn’t necessarily damage the structures of your teeth, but it’s not for everyone.

If you have gum disease, for instance, chemical whitening could further irritate your gums. Many paste-type products are designed to address surface stains so won’t provide the whiter teeth you desire. Some brown stains don’t whiten evenly during the bleaching process and require an extra touch for cosmetic appeal. Whitening typically has no effect on stains with gray undertones.

Also, the material used in tooth-colored restorations doesn’t respond to bleaching agents, so whitening your teeth can make fillings and crowns dramatically obvious. And if your teeth are discolored because of medication you use or due to an injury, whitening won’t help.

Dr. Alvarado can explain your options and help you choose a whitening method that fits your circumstance and expectations.

Don’t underestimate the benefits of professional whitening
Many individuals cite cost or time commitment as reasons to avoid seeing their dentist for professional whitening procedures. You need an appointment, and it may seem pricier than over-the-counter (OTC) whitening methods at first glance. But many of our patients find in-office whitening treatments less time-consuming and often a much greater value than OTC products.

OTC systems don’t, and shouldn’t, contain the same bleaching strength as those used by your dentist. The products we use at University Oaks Dental can whiten your teeth 10 shades in under an hour. OTC systems take much longer and simply can’t provide the same whitening results.

We apply a medical grade gel to your gums to help prevent irritation from the bleaching agent and can take steps to help prevent or decrease the temporary tooth sensitivity some patients experience after whitening. We also take care to ensure the level of whitening you experience appears natural and blends with your skin tones.

You can expect your in-office whitening effects to last for a year or longer. As part of our commitment to keeping your teeth white for life, we also offer complimentary whitening gel when you return every six months for a cleaning.

At-home whitening at its best
If you prefer to do your whitening at home on your own time, we provide products that can get the job done more effectively than typical OTC systems. We start with designing a customized tray that fits snuggly against your teeth, which helps distribute the whitening agent evenly for optimal results. This method may take several days to a few weeks to accomplish the whitening you desire.

If you’d still like to try an OTC whitening system, we’re happy to make suggestions about which might work best for your circumstance once we’ve checked your teeth and discussed your expectations.

The products available over the counter should not harm your teeth if you follow directions for use. We do recommend, however, that you try one with the American Dental Association’s seal of approval and that you remember they don’t have the same whitening benefits as an in-office treatment.