Whitening 101: Hollywood smiles and the things you hear on the radio

I listen to Sirius XM radio in my car, and recently have heard the same commercial over and over. The commercial is about teeth whitening. In the ad, they claim that they have a tooth whitening product that works in five minutes a day, and all you have to do is swab your teeth. On top of that, their product can even whiten crowns, veneers, and fillings. Now that sounds like a miracle product. Who wouldn’t want to buy that?  Maybe your teeth could look like this.

Maybe that is why everyone in Hollywood wears sunglasses inside; their teeth are so bright they can’t look at each other if they didn’t.   (These are veneers by the way)

Now, I have not tried this particular product, and will not even honor it by saying the name, but you will have to forgive me for being skeptical.

Anytime I hear a claim in an ad, or see a Groupon for a new tooth whitener, I find myself having to take a deep breath. I get a little upset by these things, and it is not because I am worried about them affecting my teeth whitening business. I get upset because these ads are fooling people. They make statements about what their product can do, and it just can’t be reality in 99.9% of the cases. There are no real restrictions on what “supplement” companies can state about their products, so they don’t have to back it up. The particular ad I am talking about above makes a couple of claims I take issue with, but the biggest thing is the whitening of crowns or veneers. I can tell you this really isn’t possible. Porcelain on crowns is the color it is going to be when it comes from the lab, and we can’t really change that, no matter how powerful a bleaching agent someone uses. You could rinse with bleach (please don’t), and it wouldn’t matter. Five minutes is also a pretty short amount of time for whitening. Must be strong stuff. Can’t imagine what it is doing to the rest of the mouth. But they really have a convincing pitch. Same thing with the Groupon kit that comes with a light. Sounds like a great idea. Dentists use a light when they do whitening, right? So it must work the same, right? I doubt it.

Whew…I think I am done venting. I guess I just don’t like that these ads make people believe things that aren’t true, just so they can sell more product.

So, how can I help you understand what you really need to know about whitening your teeth. Most whitening products start with a similar make up. They have some sort of bleaching agent, usually some percentage of peroxide mixed with other products to make it a gel. The strength of the whitening is usually related to the percentage of peroxide. Whether you are buying white strips, or doing in office whitening, the chemicals are pretty similar.


I really think that for many people the Crest Whitestrips, http://www.3dwhite.com/crest-products/intensive-pro-effects-whitestrips.aspx, you can buy at the pharmacy are a great, cost effective solution. They have been proven, and improved on, over many years, and work really well. The strips can be a little messy though. Once you use them they are done, but they are pretty cheap to begin with.

Custom Fabricated Trays

These are custom trays made by us from molds of your teeth. They fit tight, and have small spaces on the front of the teeth where the gel sits. The solution is usually a little stronger and more effective than strips because of the tight trays. The best part about this kind of whitening is that your trays should always fit, so you can do touch up whitening whenever you need to just by buying a little more solution. More cost up front, but less in the long run if you ever decide to whiten again.

In-Office Whitening

This really became popular after the Total Makeover shows that were on TV all the time for a while. In this type of treatment, the patient sits in the chair for somewhere between 1-3 hours while a very strong solution is applied to there teeth. Sometimes a light is also used because the manufacturer says it makes the solution work better. This is an option that I only offer to patients who need quick results. Quick like, “I am getting married in three days”. Usually we see a lot more sensitivity with this, and personally I have seen very little good results with this kind of whitening. We always end up sending these patients home with trays, and that is what really works. We don’t do a lot of this in our practice. Most people are willing to take the couple of weeks it takes to get white with the trays.



Please let us know if you have any other whitening questions, info@vtfamilydentistry.com, and please don’t order any five minute whitening swabs.