There are many products currently on the market that promise whiter, brighter teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) states that if you are a candidate for a whitening procedure, your dentist may suggest a procedure that can be done in a dental office. Other options include at-home products, which may be dispensed by your dentist or purchased over-the-counter. But, dental professionals, and the ADA, issue a word of caution about the improper use of such over-the-counter products, as they are sometimes too abrasive and can damage the teeth with extended use. The ADA describes "whitening" as any process that will make teeth appear whiter, using one of two approaches. A product can bleach the tooth, therefore changing the natural tooth color. A bleach contains peroxide that helps remove deep and surface stains. However, a non-bleaching whitening product contains substances that help remove surface stains only.
The dentist will use either an in-office bleaching system or laser bleaching while you are in the dental chair. Some patients, however, choose dentist-supervised at-home bleaching, which is more economical and, in many cases, provides the same results. One option for at-home bleaching involves using a custom-made mouthguard that can be worn comfortably while you are awake or sleeping. The mouthguard is so thin that you should even be able to talk and work while wearing it. Some bleaching systems recommend bleaching your teeth from two to four hours a day. These usually take three to six weeks to complete and work best on patients with sensitive teeth. Other systems recommend bleaching your teeth at night, while you sleep, which may take only 10 to 14 days to complete. Recently, more over-the-counter products are available that offer simple whitening solutions. However, they may not provide the dramatic improvement that a professional treatment option offers.