couple with newly whitened teeth smiling on couch

Make Your Teeth White The Right Way

"What's the best way to make your teeth white?" It's undoubtedly the most frequent question that patients ask dental professionals. My standard answer is, "Several options are available, so let's talk about what would be the best for you."

Who Is Whitening?

Every age group is attempting to whiten and brighten, with each individual having his or her own reason for it. Some want to brighten their teeth after braces, some want the shiniest smile that they can possibly have for their wedding and others want to revitalize their smile in the hope of staying ahead of the aging process. According to the American Dental Association's Council on Scientific Affairs, teeth whitening is one of the most popular dental aesthetic treatments across age groups.

What's Available?

There are different methods to effectively make your teeth white: In-office whitening systems, take-home tray whitening systems and over-the-counter consumer products. Each category uses different brands and chemicals to achieve varied levels of results. Professional whitening can be very effective but also costly to the patient. In addition, the most common complaint from consumers using professional-strength whitening products is sensitivity. Many over-the-counter whitening products contain lower levels of whitening ingredients, causing less sensitivity to those who use these products as directed. Some of these over-the-counter products include stain-removing toothbrushes, toothpastes, rinses and paint-on or self-applied gel strips.

Whitening Brushes, Toothpaste and Mouthwash

When walking down the oral care aisle at your local retailer, the evidence of consumer demand for whitening is staggering. So many products are available, and it is difficult to discern which product will achieve the desired result. Specialized toothbrushes with modified bristles and non-latex polishing cups exist that are intended to remove surface stains. The Colgate® Optic White™ toothbrush is designed to target surface stains. The daily use of this toothbrush in conjunction with the rest of the Optic White™ product line has been shown to reduce surface stain, resulting in a whiter and brighter smile.

For those who want a brighter smile without the cost of professionally-applied chemical agents, toothpaste whitening can be a viable daily method for stain removal. Finding toothpaste that contains safe and effective whitening agents without an abrasive texture is no longer a challenge. Colgate® Optic White® Toothpaste contains an effective level of hydrogen-peroxide whitening agent that brightens and removes stains without the taste of a gel strip. This toothpaste can also be used safely in the long term and contains sodium fluoride to strengthen enamel as the consumer whitens.

Many consumers prefer to use a daily mouthwash to freshen breath. While these rinses cannot be expected to remove deep-down stains, such products as Colgate® Optic White® Mouthwash freshen breath while removing existing stains and shielding the teeth so that new stains cannot begin to form.

Over-the-Counter Gels and Strips

Over-the-counter whitening gels and strips are safe and effective when used as directed. It is important for the consumer to recognize that the FDA does not currently regulate whitening products sold over the counter, so sticking with a reputable brand will ensure that brand scientists have found them to be safe.

Some self-applied strips are difficult to attach to the enamel surface, especially when teeth are not in perfect alignment. Paint-on gels, such as the gel used in the Colgate® Optic White® Whitening Pen, apply a thin layer of whitening agent to the surface of the enamel. When using the Colgate® Optic White® over-the-counter line together, the sequence should be floss, brush, rinse and touch up with the whitening pen.

Consulting with a dental professional should be the first course of action when trying to choose a method to make your teeth white. A dental professional can obtain your current tooth shade and determine whether the discoloration is coming from inside or outside the tooth. Whitening is best achieved on healthy teeth. Your dentist or dental hygienist can answer any questions regarding professional or over-the-counter products before purchase.

Emily Boge, RDH, BS, MPAc, is currently a health sciences public administration Master's degree candidate at Upper Iowa University and has practiced dental hygiene since 2003 in Manchester, Iowa. She is also the owner of Think Big Dental, a consulting and writing firm specializing in the education of corporations and health professionals on the role of a dental hygienist.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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