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What are the best Instant Teeth Whitening Options?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Teeth whitening technology is faster, safer, and more effective than in the past. There is a wide variety of whitening options available in stores. If you have a special occasion coming up, learn more about nearly instant whitening treatments available at your dentist's office and over-the-counter options you can use any time.

Instant Teeth Whitening Treatments With Your Dentist

Professional whitening treatments are the real deal. Your dentist can prescribe a whitening treatment specific to your teeth, including creating an imprint of your teeth for a custom whitening tray or an in-office whitening treatment. An in-office whitening treatment typically takes more than one visit. Each visit can take 30 to 90 minutes, depending on what your dentist thinks is best. According to the American Dental Association, your dentist may use light- or laser-activated teeth bleaching, which takes only one visit.

Once you've gotten teeth whitening from your dentist, you may try an at-home, over-the-counter product for maintaining your sparkling smile. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry reports that in-office whitening methods tend to be faster and more effective than what you can buy in stores. Here is how in-office treatments typically work:

  • Your dentist applies a gel to your gums to protect them from the bleaching agent.
  • Then, they use a bleaching agent – concentrated hydrogen peroxide – to your eight front teeth.
  • Then, your dentist shines a special light on your teeth to enhance its whitening effect.
  • Within one hour, your teeth can appear eight to 10 shades brighter.

Portable Teeth Whitening Systems You Can Do at Home

You have probably seen teeth whitening strips, paint-on teeth whitening gel, whitening toothpaste, brushes, trays, and pens on the shelves at pharmacies. These products are often affordable and easy to do in the evenings at home. While they may not be as effective or as fast as whitening treatments with your dentist, they can noticeably whiten your teeth.

How Teeth Whitening Toothpaste Works

Whitening toothpaste is a good option for safely whitening your teeth while maintaining your regular oral care routine. Whitening toothpaste is formulated with two percent hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth. These over-the-counter toothpaste types typically take four weeks of daily use to see a noticeable difference in shade. Whitening toothpaste can maintain in-office whitening treatments and can protect against cavities, just like other toothpaste types.

How to Use Portable Toothbrushes for Surface Stains

There are even teeth-whitening products you can carry with you on-the-go! Portable toothbrushes are small, don't require water or rinsing so that you can use them anywhere. These brushes can take care of surface stains before they set-in, such as after eating or drinking berries, red wine, or coffee.

Doing At-Home Whitening Kits

You can also ask your dentist for an at-home gel treatment. At-home treatment may take longer than the immediate in-office treatment, but it's more convenient and comfortable. For this treatment, your dentist sends you home with a tray that is full of whitening gel. You wear this tray for a set period in the evenings, like while watching TV or reading. You may have to wear these trays for two to four weeks, depending on your dentist's recommendations. However, these trays are typically prescription-strength whitening and can have fantastic results.

There are over-the-counter whitening gel trays available in stores too. Keep in mind that these are not prescription-strength whitening, but you can see results over time.

Portable Whitening Pens

Whitening pens are becoming a new accessible, portable method for teeth whitening. Just like toothbrushes, whitening pens can easily travel. Whitening pens contain hydrogen peroxide gel you brush on after brushing. The gel dries quickly and can be applied anywhere, no need to wait for a free evening at home like using the gel trays.

Other Teeth Whitening Tips

According to the Academy of General Dentistry, teeth whitening will work much faster if you follow these tips:

  • Keep up with dentist appointments to ensure your teeth and gums are healthy
  • Remember that teeth whitening solutions will not harm, nor will they whiten crowns or fillings
  • Avoid staining foods and drinks like berries, coffee, red wine, and tea during and after the whitening treatment
  • Avoid tobacco products

While there are several teeth whitening options available in stores, your dentist will know which whitening option is best. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist for recommendations if you need an at-home, affordable option.