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Should You Whiten Your Teeth?

May 31st is National Smile Day. People smile more when they like how their smile looks. We get many questions from people wanting whiter, brighter teeth. Is it just vanity or are there benefits to tooth whitening? First, let’s look at some of the overall pluses and minuses:



  • Whiter teeth-which are often associated with youth, a healthy lifestyle and beauty.
  • Improved appearance—a bright smile gives others a place to focus and because you may be inclined to smile more, you may be perceived as being more friendly.
  • Increased self-confidence—you feel you look your best



  • Your gums may get sore during the treatment
  • Your teeth may become sensitive, particularly to cold, during treatment—this is actually the most common complaint and occurs in a high number of people.
  • Some stains and tooth colorations are resistant to whitening--dark colorations, blue-gray staining, and tetracycline stains are the most difficult to lighten.
  • Crowns, bridges, and fillings do not whiten—if you have these in visible areas, you may need to replace them after whitening.


Even if you do not plan to use a dental office’s whitening product, it is still a good idea to have a dentist check over your teeth prior to starting the process. Whitening materials do penetrate your teeth and may cause additional tooth problems if you have decay, cavities, or a cracked tooth.

Now that you’ve decided to whiten your teeth, which type is right for you? Let’s take a look at your options and what you can expect.

In office whitening

  • Uses a special gel and sometimes a special device to activate the gel.
  • Commonly takes 1-2 hours in the office.
  • Although results may seem instant, your teeth are dry from the procedure. Once they are wet again with saliva they may appear darker, just as clothing or cars appear darker when they are wet. Many people perceive this as a "fading" of the whitening they achieved in the office.
  • May need to be combined with home whitening to achieve your desired result.


Waiting room whitening:

  • Is supervised by a dentist. Because of this, the whitening material used may be stronger than what you can buy at a store. Usually the device is placed in your mouth, but then you sit with it in for a period of time (possibly in the waiting room-hence the name commonly used) before it is removed.
  • More systems for this exist now than in the past. Depending on the system your office uses, it may take more than one visit to accomplish, particularly if the system requires a tray custom-fit to your mouth. 
  • Results are seen faster than if you whiten at home but may not be as dramatic as in office whitening.
  • May need to be combined with home whitening to achieve your desired result.


Custom Fit Bleaching Tray (used at home):

  • Uses a tray custom made to fit your teeth so that the product is in close contact with your teeth. This requires the dental office to take impressions or scans of your teeth to make the custom fit tray. The tray is reusable. 
  • Uses a gel you put in your tray. Worn for 1-8 hours a day (1-2 hrs is most common)
  • Results may not be seen for 1-2 weeks.
  • Requires returning to your dental office to have your progress checked and to be sure the product is being used correctly.


Ionic Activated Tray (used at home):

  • Gel is placed into a tray. A button on the tray is pressed to start the ionic activation of the gel, then you put the tray into your mouth. (The tray is reusable as long as the activator still functions.)
  • Worn for 30-60 minutes a day. (Some people choose to do it twice a day, spaced apart, because it is recommended to not drink coffee or tea during the time you are whitening with this material and they want to minimize the length of time they cannot have the beverages.)
  • Requires less drying of the teeth, so some studies show less sensitivity of teeth from this process.


Store bought Strips/Paint Ons etc. (home):

  • Typically used for 30-60 min. per day once a day.
  • Is often not as high strength as what you can get from a dental office
  • Utilizes a one size fits most system. If you're not one of the "most" your results may not be the best.
  • May interfere with speech during treatment time.
  • May not stay in place as well or feel as secure as a custom fit tray.


Mall Kiosks (At one time these were a "thing". Some have been shut down, so I'm not sure you can still find them)

  • Use a similar material as in home kits you’d get from your dentist, but you don’t get the same level of supervision. Most kiosk personnel have not trained to work in a dental office, and as such, they may only provide instructions for you to apply the product to your own teeth. 
  • Recommend weekly visits to the kiosk for best results. 
  • Achieve results only 78% of the time.


TV or Internet Products:

  • Beware or approach these with caution—some contain acids as well as the whitening material. Acids cause harm to your teeth. Remember, cavities are caused by acids eating away at the tooth structure.
  • Vary widely in results. Make sure you check testimonials at various consumer rating sites that are not affiliated with the product.


Armed with this information, you can now make the right bright choice for whitening your teeth. If you have questions that weren’t answered in this article or are interested in teeth whitening, please do not hesitate to call my office at 440-960-1940.  You can also contact us through our website at www.drjrobb.com or on facebook at www.facebook.com/drjenniferrobb