Teeth Whitening Products: Do They Work?

Medically CitedMedically Cited Fact Check Fact Checkedby Reviewed by CHD TeamUpdated: Jul-17-2024
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You want sparkly white teeth, but you have no time to go to the dentist to have a whitening procedure done. Maybe teeth whitening products can help. Can they? Let's learn more about these products and find out if they're worth it.

What are Teeth Whitening Products?

Teeth whitening products pertain to any product that makes the teeth appear whiter. In general, they work by eliminating stains on the surface of the teeth while others go deeper into the tooth structure for more intense effect.

Teeth whitening products come in various forms, with the most common being strips, gels, pens, and trays. These are over-the-counter products that are readily available in pharmacies and supermarkets. You may also obtain an at-home whitening kits from your dentist.

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Why Should You Take Teeth Whitening Products

Teeth whitening products are used for improving the color of the teeth and usually make it one or two shades lighter. These products, however, are not recommended for everyone. They are contraindicated or may not be as effective in the following:

  • Young children - Teeth whitening products must not be used by anyone under 14 years old (some say 16)[1]. That's because at this age, the nerve tissue of the tooth is still close to the surface, and the whitening solution may only irritate it.
  • Pregnant and lactating women - The ingredients used in teeth whitening products are strong chemicals that may be harmful for babies and young children. Thus, it is best to avoid this product and just use whitening toothpastes which are much safer (source).
  • Individuals with decayed teeth and gum diseases - These individuals are discouraged to use teeth whitening products. Whitening products tend to penetrate the areas softened by the decay then go into the inner layers of tooth, leading to sensitivity. Decayed teeth must be restored first. Meanwhile, periodontal disease may cause the gums to recede, exposing the tooth roots which naturally appear yellower. Whitening products have no effect on the tooth roots and therefore can't whiten them.
  • Individuals with tooth restorations - Such may include fillings, veneers, crowns, and bridges. These restorations are not affected by whitening products and therefore don't whiten. Using whitening products on teeth with restorations results in uneven whitening, wherein the teeth appear lighter than the restorations. Thus, the use of whitening products, especially at-home kits must be done before placement of restorations.
  • Internal dark stains and discolorations - Internal stains such as those caused by trauma[2], pulp tissue death[3], and tetracycline antibiotics[4] won't respond to teeth whitening products. Cases like these are indicated for other treatments which must be discussed with your dentist to find the right option for you.

What are the Key Ingredients to Look for in Teeth Whitening Products?

Peroxides - Includes carbamide peroxide[5] and hydrogen peroxide[6]. Peroxide is the key ingredient in almost all teeth whitening products, be it professionally-applied or patient-applied. Carbamide peroxide is the inactive form and it breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and urea. Hydrogen peroxide, the active form, is the one that produces the actual whitening effect. Teeth whitening products contain either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, with the latter working faster.

Fluoride - Commonly found in toothpastes and other oral healthcare products due to its ability to strengthen the teeth and make it more resistant to demineralization and decay. The main benefit of incorporating fluoride in teeth whitening products is the reduction of sensitivity (source).

Do Teeth Whitening Products Work?

Teeth whitening products are generally effective in making the teeth whiter - but they don't make them "blinding white". At-home whitening kits prescribed by dentists tend to be more effective than their OTC counterparts. Initial results are seen almost instantly and the effects are sustained for an average of four to six months. The degree of whiteness will depend on several factors such as the amount of staining, the current condition of the teeth, and the type of teeth whitening products used. In general, the whitening effect is most visible in individuals whose teeth have yellow tones.

The longevity of results depend on your habits. If you're a fan of dark-colored foods and beverages like red sauces, berries, coffee, and tea, the whiteness starts to fade faster. Meanwhile, those who avoid these kinds of food enjoy the effects longer. Same goes for smokers and non-smokers, as smoking can cause nicotine stains of the tooth surface (source).

What are the Side Effects of Teeth Whitening Products?

The most common side effects of teeth whitening products, or teeth whitening in general, include sensitivity and irritation of the soft tissues in the mouth (oftentimes the gums). These should disappear after a few days. If not, and they worsen, consult your dentist right away.

How to Choose the Best Teeth Whitening Products?

The best teeth whitening products are those that contain peroxides. Peroxide concentration varies according to brand. The higher the concentration, the better the whitening effect will be. But higher concentration also means increased side effects. If you are planning to use one, it is advised to consult your dentist first. He/she will perform a complete examination of your mouth and even take into consideration your medical history to determine which teeth whitening products are most appropriate for you.

The Bottom Line

Teeth whitening is among the many ways to improve the appearance of your smile and there's nothing wrong about wanting to use them. However, if you're unsure about which products to try, it is always wise to consult your dentist who will recommend the appropriate product and/or treatment for you.

Furthermore, the best way to achieve and maintain a healthy smile is good oral hygiene and regular visits to your trusted dentist.

**This is a subjective assessment based on the strength of the available informations and our estimation of efficacy.

*Result may vary. The information contained in this website is provided for general informational purpose. No medical claims are implied in this content, and the information herein is not intended to be used for self diagnosis or self treatment of any condition.

*Disclosure of Material connection: Some of the links in the post above are "associate sales links." This means if you can click on the link and purchase an item, we will receive a commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services which we use personally and/or believe will add value to our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials."

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Note: Results may vary about any product effectiveness. The information contained in this website is provided for general informational purposes only. No medical claims are implied in this content, and the information herein is not intended be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment of any condition.

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