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Teeth Whitening - Topic Overview

Teeth whitening is not a medical procedure—it does not result in healthier teeth—but it can result in whiter teeth and a brighter smile. This in turn can make people feel better about themselves.

There are two types of teeth whitening:

  • Bleaching your teeth changes the color of the tooth enamel and removes both surface stains and those deeper in the teeth. Your dentist can bleach your teeth at his or her office, or you can do it yourself with a kit your dentist gives you or with a kit you buy over the counter (OTC). The chemical used to bleach teeth is generally carbamide peroxide. Different products use different concentrations of this chemical.
  • Whitening toothpastes use a rough (abrasive) material that "scrapes" off surface stains and polishes the teeth.

Bleaching

For in-office bleaching, the dentist often combines bleach with a laser or light to speed up the process. A visit usually takes from 30 minutes to 1 hour, and you may need more than one treatment. Your dentist will protect your gums with a gel or shield and then put the bleaching agent on your teeth. The bleach concentrate used for the in-office process is generally stronger than that used in other methods, because the dentist can watch how it is used.

Your dentist may also give you a kit with a mouthpiece and gel containing the bleach. Your dentist may make a custom mouthpiece to fit your teeth. These kits usually use a lower concentration of bleach than an in-office process. Your dentist will tell you how often to wear the mouthpiece and for how long.

An over-the-counter kit is similar to what your dentist gives you. The bleach concentration, how you use it, and how long you use it varies between products. For example, some products use a mouthpiece and others use strips you lay across your teeth.

All of these methods have different costs, and your insurance will usually not pay for them. You choose the method that works best for you and that you can afford.

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    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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