If you are thinking about whitening your teeth for an upcoming event, you should hesitate before tossing that box of whitening strips into your basket. Although grocery-store shelves are lined with whitening toothpastes, bleaching kits, whitening strips, and even whitening gums, the fact of the matter is that your cosmetic dentist knows a lot more about the process than you do, and that can keep you safe and your smile attractive. Here are three important reasons to choose professional dental whitening over DIY kits and what might happen if you don't.
1. Your Dentist Examines Your Teeth Beforehand
Unlike at-home teeth-whitening sessions where you haphazardly slap whitening strips onto your teeth in a few minutes, your cosmetic dentist will begin your tooth-whitening appointment with a careful physical examination. The purpose of these exams is to evaluate your smile for damage, underlying decay, gum disease, and other signs of trouble that could interfere with your whitening results.
Your dental enamel consists of a tightly woven network of hydroxyapatite crystals. Because the surface of dental enamel is porous, the pigments from the foods that you eat and the beverages that you drink can penetrate the surface and lead to staining. Dental whitening works by allowing a bleaching agent to permeate the dental enamel and lighten the stains. Unfortunately, the same chemical that works so well on enamel can be incredibly irritating to raw dental pulp, nerves, and tooth dentin. That is why your dentist will look carefully for things like exposed cavities, chipped teeth, dental fractures, and gum inflammation.
After your teeth are determined to be healthy enough for whitening, your dentist will move forward with your treatment. Unfortunately, whitening at home without this kind of exam first could leave you with incredibly inflamed, sensitive teeth, making it hard to eat, drink, talk, or even sleep comfortably afterwards.
2. Dentists Prescribe the Right Bleach Concentration
Another issue with DIY whitening kits is their lack of industry oversight. Contrary to popular belief, very few dental whitening kits are approved by the American Dental Association, and using an unapproved kit can leave you working with a dangerous or ineffective whitening system. In fact, research studies have shown that some DIY whitening kits contain very few effective ingredients while others contain peroxide concentrations more than 300 times the legal limit.
Fortunately, your dentist will carefully evaluate your staining, talk with you about your desired results, and decide on a peroxide concentration that will be safe and effective for you. Additionally, if you opt for in-office whitening, professional hygienists will apply your bleach and monitor your whitening progress, helping you to avoid whitening-related damage.
3. Over-Bleaching Has Serious Side Effects
Sometimes when people use DIY whitening kits, they decide to break the recommended guidelines to get results faster. For example, even though a kit says to whiten for twenty or thirty minutes at a time, you might be tempted to wear those whitening trays overnight to get ready for a big event. Unfortunately, over-bleaching has serious side effects, including chemical burns, extreme dental sensitivity, and uneven results.
In fact, because teeth can become slightly opaque when they are overly bleached, overdoing things could lead to teeth that look gray or bluish, since the teeth will show the dark shadows behind them. To prevent these kinds of problems, your cosmetic dentist will carefully evaluate your whitening progress, set appointments accordingly, and adjust your treatment timeline if issues occur.
By working exclusively with your cosmetic dentist for your whitening needs, you can ensure that your smile will stay white and beautiful while avoiding some of the uncomfortable side effects of over-whitening your teeth.