The Pros and Cons of Over-the-Counter Teeth Whitening Products

Teeth whitening is a popular aesthetic alternative for those looking to brighten their smile, and over-the-counter (OTC) products have become a low-cost alternative to professional whitening treatments. But before you start shopping for whitening products, it's important to understand the pros and cons of OTC teeth whitening. Dr. Messina recommends consulting your dentist before beginning any whitening program.

This is especially important if you have recently had a teeth cleaning, as whitening right after can cause the tooth enamel to be whitened rather than the tartar or buildup on the top. Additionally, your dentist can help ensure that you are taking the right path for your desired level of whitening. Most OTC whitening products contain either hydrogen peroxide (HP) or carbamide peroxide (CP) as the active ingredient, with HP being the strongest. It's important to check the expiration date before buying any product, as they have a short shelf life.

The most common OTC whitening products are rinses, paint brushes, toothpastes, chewing gums, dental floss and whitening strips. While these products can be effective depending on the reason for discoloration or stain, how carefully instructions are followed and the desired level of whitening, there is a lack of clinical evidence on their safety and effectiveness due to most studies being backed by manufacturers. Toothpastes, chewing gums and dental floss are agents for removing surface stains, while rinses and paint brushes with low levels of hydrogen peroxide have some whitening effect but are not clinically relevant. Whitening strips have similar aesthetic results and side effects compared to discoloration with 10% CP using trays; however, these studies have financial support from manufacturers and were based on short-term evaluations.

Legislation varies widely in different countries with respect to OTC teeth whitening products. Concern has arisen due to possible abusive use of these self-medication agents, especially in young patients, with possible harmful results. Dentists must be familiar with these types of products in order to inform their patients. In conclusion, independent clinical trials are needed to provide sufficient evidence on the use of over-the-counter whitening products.

Beware of beauty trends or self-made teeth whitening methods, which can have negative side effects such as reducing tooth hardness or increasing sensitivity. Experts recommend looking for teeth whitening products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Home teeth whitening kits can help correct greater tooth discoloration at the surface level. Whitening toothpastes contain peroxide in much lower concentrations than most other whitening products. The pen contains a whitening serum made with hydrogen peroxide that is applied to the teeth before going to sleep and stays overnight.

Opalescence Go teeth whitening trays come pre-filled with a menthol gel that contains 15% hydrogen peroxide. Rubinshtein also points out that in-office and home treatments work in a similar way, but you should be more careful when whitening your teeth on your own. All toothpastes are slightly abrasive for cleaning teeth, but whitening toothpastes usually contain ingredients that specifically attack surface stains such as baking soda.

Graham Martin
Graham Martin

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