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Tooth Whitening Safety

Tooth Whitening Safety

Tooth whitening is a bleaching process that involves the use of peroxides to remove stains. The process often acts on deep stains that are impossible to reach with non-bleaching products that claim to do the job, but only act on surface stains. Tooth whitening agents can be bought over the counter or can be used in an office procedure administered by a dental professional. Over-the-counter formulas are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it is best to obtain a recommendation from your dentist, especially if he is familiar with your oral history. At-home procedures usually take up to 4 weeks to become effective, while a procedure done by a professional will take about an hour.

If you opt for a professional tooth whitening procedure, the formula will probably contain 10 percent carbamide peroxide, which is equal to about 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. This amount has been approved by the American Dental Association (ADA), making it a safer bet than many over-the-counter products. Generally concentrations safely range from 15 to 35 percent and can be used in combination with a laser treatment that accelerates the whitening process. Your dentist will keep the formula from touching your gums by using a rubber barrier or a protective gel.

Having a professional whiten your teeth is always the best option, but if cost is an issue, you can also find some good over-the-counter whitening brands that are safe and effective. Several tray-based at-home whiteners have been favorably researched and allow you to isolate sensitive teeth by not filling a particular area with the whitening formula. Trays allow you to use less bleach and also prevent your gums from coming into contact with the whitener. Look for a formula that contains 10 percent carbamide peroxide, and avoid those that use hydrogen peroxide because not enough research has been done to guarantee its safety when used for whitening teeth. When using a tray-based solution, choose a lower concentration of formula first to make sure that it is not too strong; you can always buy a stronger solution later. Tooth whitening strips are also available, but they aren't usually long enough to whiten more than just your front teeth. They also can be difficult to apply and tend to slip.

Bleaching your teeth can cause them to become more sensitive. Many gel formulas contain potassium nitrate, which reduces sensitivity. Oral tissues can also become irritated, so be sure to keep the solution away from your gum line during the whitening process. Be careful not to over-bleach your teeth, as this will strip the enamel and cause problems later. Most importantly, do not whiten your teeth unless your gums are in good health and you have no unfilled cavities or loose teeth. It is always advisable to consult your dentist before embarking on a tooth whitening program.

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