Our dental advisor Dr. Erin Minhee Oh answers your most frequently asked questions and provides tips for safe teeth whitening.
Q: Should you brush your teeth after using OTC whitening strips?
Absolutely. You do not want to leave the whitening gel on your teeth, so after your 15 -30 minutes are up and you peel off your whitening strip, immediately rinse off or brush off any excess whitening agent (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide) left on the surface of your teeth that can cause tooth sensitivity.
Q: Can I do teeth whitening while in orthodontic treatment (wearing braces)
We do not recommend teeth whitening while in orthodontic treatment due to the appliances involved with orthodontic treatment. If you have metal or ceramic brackets, the whitening gel will not penetrate through these appliances and if you whiten your teeth, you will be left with those areas being your natural tooth color and the remaining areas to be a different shade.
Q: Are charcoal toothpaste and charcoal teeth whitening powder safe?
Short answer is no, and I recommend using them with lots of caution. Activated Charcoal oral care products have been the hype in the last few years, being incorporated into toothpastes and coming out as a whitening agent on its own. The claim is that when it is applied to the teeth, activated charcoal supposedly traps and lifts away stains for a whitening effect. Unfortunately there has not been any scientific evidence behind this theory and many products that have been advertised as having activated charcoal have been found to contain bentonite clay, which sometimes contains lead. Activated Charcoal can also be very abrasive due to its unregulated particle sizes. It can actually cause enamel erosion and micro-tearing of the gums. This can consequently lead to weakening of the tooth structure, teeth sensitivity and various gum disease.
Q: How to deal with tooth sensitivity with whitening procedures?
A very common side effect of teeth whitening is sensitivity. Using a remineralizing toothpaste (fluoride or nano-hydroxyapatite toothpaste) or a desensitizer to close up or seal the dentinal tubules that may be exposed while the teeth are whitened will significantly reduce teeth sensitivity. For patients who suffer from generalized tooth sensitivity to begin with, dentists will sometimes have them use a prescription fluoride toothpaste for at least 2 weeks prior to whitening procedures.
Q: Why does in-office teeth whitening cost more?
The teeth whitening agents we use at a dental office are usually stronger and will deliver stunning results. Also in-office treatment supervised by a dental professional can be tailored for each patient’s existing teeth condition and customizing the shades.
Q: General teeth whitening tips?
In summary, cosmetic teeth whitening is an excellent procedure to enhance your smile. With many ways to improve yellow teeth, it does not matter what you choose – just remember to follow the instructions of each product to the tee. There is no best product or best way to whiten your teeth, but as a dental professional I do recommend:
- Understand the root cause of tooth discoloration and whether your teeth can handle the potentially harsh bleaching process with dental professionals. DIY teeth whitening can do more harm than good when misused.
- Get a dental examination done first by your dentist to make sure you do not have any pre-existing conditions (cavities, receding gums, sensitive teeth) that can be aggravated by the strong whitening ingredients. Whether you are planning to use at home treatment or in office whitening.
- Get a teeth cleaning first prior to whitening your teeth to remove all extrinsic stains in your teeth (that can only be removed professionally) to achieve the best results with your teeth whitening.
- Use a remineralizing toothpaste - with fluoride or nano-hydroxyapatite (nHA) to minimize tooth sensitivity. If you already have sensitive teeth to begin with, ask your dentist for a prescription fluoride toothpaste for 2-4 weeks prior to teeth whitening.
- nHA toothpastes can lengthen the whitening effect from the procedure. It not only protects against sensitive teeth but also restores translucency and gloss. By restoring mineral density to both surface and subsurface enamel contributing to brighter and whiter teeth. It has more benefits than off the shelf hydrogen peroxide based whitening toothpastes.