Over the last 20 years, the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs has kept tabs on the development and the increasing quantity of dental whitening products. The market for these products has steadily grown, and the ADA has seen a need for consistent definitions when talking about whitening products.
By definition, “whitening” is any type of process that makes your teeth appear whiter. This can be done in two different ways. A product can bleach the tooth, meaning it will actually change the color of your natural tooth. Bleaching products contain certain peroxides that help to eliminate deep surface stains on your teeth. A whitening product that is non-bleaching contains agents that work by a chemical or physical reaction to remove only surface stains.
These whitening processes can be given by your dentist in the office, prescribed by the dentist for you to use at home, or you can purchase them over-the-counter. You can find them in two types of applications: peroxide bleach agents and whitening toothpastes.
Peroxide Bleaching Agents
Carbamide peroxide, which is used in several bleaching products, breaks down into urea and hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is the active bleaching agent. A product that contains 10% Carbamide peroxide produces about 3.5% hydrogen peroxide. The most common side effects include tooth sensitivity and irritation of the mouth’s soft tissues, in particular, the gums. Tooth sensitivity can occur during the early stages of the bleach treatment. The tissue irritation can be caused by the tray not fitting properly. Sensitivity and irritation are usually temporary and subside when the treatment is finished. It is very rare that severe tooth damage has been reported. Patients should be aware that there is not enough information available to support the unsupervised, long term, or repeated use of any bleaching process.
Home Products Prescribed by a Dentist
OTC (over-the-counter) products and those prescribed by your dentist are eligible for the ADA Seal of Acceptance. The category of products that have the ADA seal contain 10% Carbamide peroxide, but participation in this program is not limited only to processes with this type of bleach. There are many other products that are available to customers from the dentist and OTC, including gel trays, paint-on materials, and bleaching strips. The type and concentration of the active ingredients will widely vary.
With a water-based solution, Carbamide peroxide breaks down to hydrogen peroxide. Other peroxide whiteners can include glycerin, carbopol, sodium hydroxide and flavoring agents.
Professional Products Applied by Your Dentist
There are several professional tooth whitening products used by dentists in their offices. They contain hydrogen peroxide in concentrations ranging from 25-40%, and are occasionally used together with a laser or light, which accelerates the whitening process.
Many studies have reported that there is no additional long-term benefit with a light activated process. Prior to applying the product, gums are protected by isolation with a rubber dam or a gel application. Where home products are intended to be used over a 2-4 week period, the treatment in the dentist office takes about 2 hours to finish. At Simply Smiles, this procedure is called Zoom. The procedures of tray whitening and in-office Zoom will get you the same results, they just differ in time and cost to complete the procedure.
Whitening toothpaste in the ADA Seal of Acceptance Program have chemical or polishing agents that are made to improve the appearance of teeth by removing surface stains. This is accomplished through gentile polishing or non-bleaching actions. Several of the whitening toothpaste brands that are available have received the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
It is recommended by the ADA that if you decide to use a tooth-bleaching product that you should do so only after talking to your dentist. This is extremely important for patients with several fillings, crowns, and severely dark stains. A thorough exam by your dentist is necessary to decide if bleaching is an option for you. The dentist may need to supervise the use of bleaching products with an appropriate treatment plan.
If you are trying to decide on a whitening treatment for your teeth, you need to consult a dentist before you do anything. At Simply Smiles Dentistry, we can provide the advice and treatment you need to make your smile it’s brightest.
Until next time…Keep on smiling!