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Teeth Whitening

You might want to whiten your teeth more than is possible through regular brushing, flossing, and checkups. There are several options, each of which varies in price and effectiveness:
 
  • Chairside bleaching or "power bleaching." Your dentist applies a gel or rubber shield to protect your gums and oral tissues, and then puts a bleach on your teeth. Ask if the bleaching agents have the ADA seal. A special light or a laser may be used to help the bleach work better, but no products that use lasers are accepted right now by the ADA. With this method, you may have to go for more than one visit. You will see results right away (about five shades brighter). It works well on a range of stains.
     
  • Professional dispensed bleaching solutions. These products are for use at home, and you get them from your dentist. They contain peroxides that actually bleach the tooth enamel. Most come in a gel and are placed in a mouth guard or tray that fits inside your mouth around your teeth. How long you use them depends on what results you're looking for and if you are sensitive to the bleach. Some products are used for about twice a day for two weeks, and others are used overnight for one to two weeks. They help with many types of staining. Your teeth turn about six shades brighter with long-lasting results.
     
  • Over-the-counter, TV, and Internet products. These products are for use at home and include whitening strips, paint-on products, and gels and trays. They have a low amount of peroxide. Some are worn during the day, and some are applied at night before bedtime. They have limited results without first having the stains removed professionally, but they can help prolong the results you get from professional removal. They can help staining due to age and certain foods. Your teeth turn about two shades brighter for up to six months. None of these gels and trays are accepted by the ADA.
     
  • Whitening toothpastes. All toothpastes help remove surface stains through the action of mild abrasives. "Whitening" toothpastes that have the ADA seal have special polishing agents that remove even more stains. Unlike bleaches, these products do not change the actual color of teeth -- they only help with slight surface stains. You might see temporary results; manufacturers claim that teeth may become one to two shades brighter.
     
Before you use any whitening products, talk with your dentist first. He or she can help you decide which method is best for the type of stains that are on your teeth. Not all products will work on all people. Options offered by your dentist can be expensive, so be certain to ask your dentist to fully explain what results you can really expect. Keep in mind that whitening your teeth alone does not make your mouth any healthier.
 
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