If you want whiter teeth, then you’re not alone. During a recent American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry survey, most people said they would like whiter and brighter teeth if they could change just one thing about their smiles. There’s little wonder why cosmetic teeth whitening is a multi-billion dollar global industry!

Approximately 35 million Americans will spend over $1 billion on nonprescription teeth whiteners in 2022 alone. Many will attempt to compensate for intrinsic discoloration that comes with the passage of time. Extrinsic discoloration results from consuming wine, tea, coffee, soda and tobacco.

Do over-the-counter teeth whiteners work? To a degree, yes – but they are neither as safe nor effective as the teeth whitening procedures provided by dentists. This is because using an at-home teeth whitener incorrectly may damage your teeth and injure your gums. Some poorly made products may damage your teeth even if you follow their instructions perfectly!

How Can Nonprescription Teeth Whiteners Damage Your Teeth?

Over-the-counter teeth whiteners can contain dangerous ingredients. Because they are classified as “cosmetic,” at-home tooth whitening products do not require Food and Drug Administration FDA approval before they are offered for sale. In other words, the FDA has not determined whether or not the ingredients in these products are unsafe, which means using them comes with certain risks. For example, some teeth whitening strips contain chlorine dioxide – an industrial cleaner that may permanently damage teeth in relatively low concentrations.

Over-the-counter teeth whiteners can cause enamel erosion. Enamel is the thin coating that protects a tooth from permanent damage, but it’s far from invulnerable. Because strong alkaline substances can damage enamel, a whitening product that contains too much bleach may harm your teeth. Furthermore, a product that contains a safe amount of bleach may also destroy enamel if applied for too long.

Over-the-counter teeth whiteners can cause tooth sensitivity. Irreversible enamel erosion would have been bad enough on its own. The problem can also prove painful. Once the bleach has removed certain minerals from enamel and turned it porous, microscopic channels can form to expose the sensitive dental nerves inside the teeth.

Over-the-counter teeth whiteners can cause gum irritation. At-home whitening kits are one-size-fits-all, but everyone has one-of-a-kind gumlines. When a tray or strip isn’t precisely molded to your unique smile, potent whitening solution can easily seep onto your sensitive gums. That may cause bleeding and an intense burning sensation. Worse yet, misapplied whitening products may actually stain your gums white.

Over-the-counter teeth whiteners can cause disappointment. Dissatisfaction with the results of a nonprescription teeth whitening product is hardly a worst case scenario, but it is dissatisfaction all the same. Many products only partially whiten the teeth. Many others yield barely noticeable results. You don’t want to spend over $100 and several weeks using a product that doesn’t leave you fully happy with the results!

Why Is Professional Teeth Whitening Better?

Some teeth whitening products are administered by dentists in their offices. Others are supplied by dentists along with specific instructions for at-home application. But in either event, prescription teeth whitening is far safer because it eliminates or dramatically reduces the risks described above.

Prescription teeth whitening products typically contain safe concentrations of carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. When applied by a dentist or in strict accordance with a dentist’s clear instructions, these chemicals do not pose a threat of causing enamel erosion. 

Tooth sensitivity is common after all whitening procedures, although patients typically report significantly less sensitivity after receiving professional whitening compared to using an over-the-counter product. 

Because your dentist will create custom trays that fit perfectly to the unique contours of your teeth, there is virtually zero risk of product seeping onto your gums. And perhaps best of all, patients are frequently far more satisfied with the results of professional teeth whitening than they are with nonprescription treatments!

Would you like to learn more about how you can whiten your teeth safely? Then we welcome you to contact Centrasota Dental in St. Cloud, MN today to schedule a consultation! Our prosthodontist Dr. Congdon and our team are always available to discuss our wide range of routine and cosmetic dentistry services, including our in-office and take-home teeth whitening procedures.