From toothpastes to gels, strips, mouth molds and mouthwashes, there is a dizzying array of products that promise to whiten, whiten and brighten teeth. And with so many options on pharmacy shelves, it can be challenging to find the right method for you.
But are homemade teeth whitening products as effective as they claim? And are they safe? We asked some experts to tell us.
How does tooth whitening work?
Over-the-counter teeth whitening products work in two ways, according to experts we spoke to. They either scrape off the stains using physical force, or they whiten these stains with the same chemicals used for in-office whitening procedures.
physical abrasion. Products that have some sort of grit — whether whitening toothpastes, regular toothpastes or just baking soda — will act as abrasives and physically remove stains that occur on the surface of teeth, said Dorota Kopycka-Kedzierawski, a dentist at the University Medical Center. from Rochester.
Many common toothpastes contain some texture for this reason, and brushing itself is an act of physically scraping away stains and debris.
chemical whitening. Most whitening strips, gel mouth molds, and mouthwashes work by putting teeth in contact with chemical bleaching agents such as carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide.
A big difference between these products and the in-office versions, said Timothy Bromage, a professor of molecular pathology at the New York University School of Dentistry who specializes in bone and dental biology, is that the concentrations of chemicals in over-the-counter products are much smaller.
What products work?
Physical abrasion and bleaching chemicals are effective in whitening teeth, said Laura Tam, dean of dentistry at the University of Toronto.
When toothpaste is advertised as “whitening teeth,” it usually means it has a more abrasive quality than regular toothpaste, she said, but even regular toothpastes that don’t have any “whitening” claims in your packages will work.
Bleaching chemicals can also reduce external stains, whether from coffee, tea, red wine or cigarettes. They can also be effective in reducing staining that occurs in the inner layer or dentin of teeth, which can develop after blunt force or traumatic injuries, or in children after taking certain antibiotics, Kopycka-Kedzierawski said.
Pigmented foods and drinks can also penetrate the enamel and stain the inside of your teeth. Some people with naturally very porous nail polish are especially prone to this type of staining.
The only downside to at-home chemical bleaching products is that because the concentrations of chemicals are much lower, they will take longer to work than in-office methods, Tam said. And not everyone will see the effects of whitening on inner tooth stains.
Everyone’s enamel absorbs bleaching agents differently, she said, so effectiveness can vary. And some people have naturally darker teeth than others, for genetic reasons.
LED light whitening kits are another popular product. They involve applying a whitening gel to the teeth through a mold, or having the patient bite into a gel-filled mold and use bright light to perform the procedure.
In theory, they work because LED light can activate bleaching chemicals and make them work faster, Tam said. Unfortunately, she added, “the body of evidence does not suggest that you can activate the bleaching agent using anything like light or heat.”
As these products involve applying whitening chemicals to your teeth, you can still see whitening results, but the process that involves LED is unlikely to make any significant advances.
Are the products safe?
Abrasive teeth whitening products are generally safe, Tam said, but rubbing teeth with very hard particles or brushing with abrasive material longer or more often than recommended can wear down the enamel.
This is counterproductive to efforts made to achieve whitening, Bromage said, as enamel is what makes your teeth look white. Dentin, the material that makes up the inside of the tooth, has a yellowish-brown color. If you wear too much white enamel, the dentin color will start to show.
In general, Tam said, at-home chemical bleaching treatments are safe and effective when used as advertised. [ou seja, produtos certificados]. But it’s best to opt for those that have lower concentrations of chemicals and shorter exposure times, she said.
Incorrectly using chemical-based treatments, leaving them on for too long or applying the substances to the point of reaching the gums, can cause injuries as well as damage the teeth.
In that sense, Bromage said, over-the-counter whitening products shouldn’t hurt, especially on the first application. Pain is a sign that you are overdoing it or that there is something going on that requires your dentist’s attention.
Anything that claims to be “extra strong” should probably be avoided, Tam said.
Teeth whitening is never a permanent solution, Tam said. Results at home can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, while in-office procedures can last a year or more. And because teeth naturally darken with age, Tam said, you’ll see regression no matter what treatment you choose.
It’s also important to keep in mind that none of these whitening procedures will work on fillings, crowns or other dental equipment, Kopycka-Kedzierawski said. The procedure will whiten your natural teeth, which can create irregularities if the fillings are darker. In these cases, your dentist can recolor these mismatches by painting them in matching shades.
In the end, said Kopycka-Kedzierawski, everyone’s teeth are different. Your natural color, enamel porosity and sensitivity can make you react differently to whitening treatments. If in doubt, consult your dentist.
Translated by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves