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What are the best ways to whiten teeth? 

The best ways to whiten teeth are usually found at the dentist’s office

Lasers are a popular teeth whitening method.

What are the best ways to whiten teeth? 

By Dhanesh Misir on December 07, 2017

There are many options out there, but the best ways to whiten teeth depend on the individual

Finding the best ways to whiten teeth has become more and more important for people over the years, culminating in something called the “tissue test”. Although the value of one’s teeth resembling a sheet of computer paper is debatable (it could just be a marketing scheme), there are certainly a number of different ways for teeth whitening to be achieved. 

These methods can work for both tissue testers and more practical users, but as the ADA says, the best way to determine the ideal treatment for an individual is through a thorough oral examination conducted by a licensed dentist.  
 

Understanding possible side effects from teeth whitening strips

For individuals looking to avoid a trip to the dentist’s office, teeth whitening strips might seem like the most convenient option. The commercials certainly make them seem simple enough to use! However, it’s important to remember that there can be some side effects if your search for the best way to whiten teeth leads you to take matters into your own hands.  

  • Increased sensitivity - Using whitening strips for longer than the suggested amount of time can sometimes trigger pain and heightened sensitivity in your teeth. You could also experience this side effect if you sleep with the strips on, or if you’re having some kind of reaction to the whitening chemicals. Tooth sensitivity as caused by whitening strips should go away with some time, and in the meantime you should avoid foods that are particularly hot or cold, as well as all teeth whitening bleaches or products.  
     
  • White spots - You might be trying to achieve whiter teeth for yourself, but that doesn’t mean you want to have white spots left behind on them. If you discover white spots after using teeth strips, it could be a sign of over-whitening. Alternatively, it could mean your tooth enamel isn’t a match for the whitening strips you’ve been using.  
     
  • Blisters on gums -  If you discover blistering on your gums after using teeth whitening strips, you might be suffering from a chemical burn. There's also the possibility that you’re experiencing an allergic reaction to one of the strip's active ingredients. In any case, seek out a dentist’s opinion so you can be sure of the cause.  

Exploring activated charcoal teeth whitening 

One trend that has taken on greater prominence in the present day is using activated charcoal for teeth whitening. This method is viable as a solution for people who want to try to get results at home, but is it the best way to whiten teeth? From a safety standpoint, probably not. A Board Certified Physician on JustAnswer explains the risks involved with activated charcoal teeth whitening:  

“Activated charcoal is safe to use occasionally and has long been used to treat accidental poisonings. If used chronically, it can cause constipation and block absorption of nutrients,” they warn. “You can't use it near medications as it might block their effectiveness.”  

The charcoal itself isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to this method. Although it removes some of the staining elements and scrubs the teeth, the actual whitening comes from hydrogen peroxide, which is applied afterward.  

“More iffy though still probably safe is the hydrogen peroxide used after the charcoal. You have to be careful with this if you have a lot of crowns/caps/fillings,” the physician explains. “It should be low dose and not used too frequently, though dentists use it all the time.” 


Teeth whitening for sensitive teeth

There are products on the market that cater to people afflicted with sensitive teeth, like special mouthwashes and toothpastes. But what about teeth whitening treatments such as those discussed here? Is there any single best way to whiten teeth for people with extra sensitivity? Again, the answer is likely a no.  

As maintained by Mark Bornfeld, DDS, a Dental Expert on JustAnswer, teeth whitening for sensitive teeth isn’t generally recommended. “If you have sensitive teeth, whitening is not the most appropriate treatment for you. Don't forget -- the benefits of whitening are temporary, and whitening treatments need to be regularly repeated every few months in order to maintain a lighter color. It is my experience that patients with sensitive teeth grow weary of the discomfort.”  

Given that whitening treatments can create sensitivity in normal teeth, it goes without saying that people who already suffer from sensitivity would do better to avoid them. Of course, if you decide you’re willing to put up with the pain, Dr. Bornfeld offers this advice:   

“You will need to decide for yourself whether the cure is worse than the disease. The light-activated systems are faster, and tend to cause less aggregate sensitivity, but are more expensive.” 

Other reasons a person might not be a good candidate for teeth whitening treatments include:  

  • If you have tooth colored fillings that are visible when you smile. These add-ons will retain their original color even if the natural enamel is changed to be whiter. This means you can end up with a multi-colored smile.  
     
  • People with receded gums may have some of the root surfaces in their mouth exposed. These areas, if bleached, can cause the teeth to become highly sensitive.  
     
  • If initial treatments don’t produce much lightening, it could mean that your tooth enamel just can’t be altered as much as other people’s. A second treatment might whiten your teeth a little more, but this doesn’t always work.  
     
  • If there is any active decay in the teeth, bleaching them can cause extra sensitivity after treatment.  

Figuring out the best ways to whiten teeth might seem difficult, but with the right guidance you can determine the ideal treatment for you. You can visit your dentist, or you can always get advice from the comfort of your own home by asking the Experts on JustAnswer. Just be sure to leave the tissues out of it.  

Have you had any memorable experiences with teeth whitening? Share them in the comments below!