Americans are very concerned about the whiteness of their teeth. Retailers, trying to capitalize on the desire for whiter teeth, are stocking teeth whitening products wherever they can. You can get teeth whiteners at the drugstore, the grocery store, even the convenience store. These stores are perfectly happy to sell you a soda to stain your teeth and whiteners to try to lighten them again.
Sometimes these whiteners can work, but often they don’t. If you’re trying to whiten your teeth with an over-the-counter (OTC) whitener, and it’s not working for you, it’s probably related to one of these common problems.
Wrong Type of Whitener
There are two basic approaches used by over-the-counter teeth whiteners. Some of them are chemical whiteners, which work on basically the same principle as professional whiteners: chemicals break down stains and remove them from your enamel.
The other type of whitener is an abrasive whitener, most often found in whitening toothpastes. These contain grit that is designed to scrub away stains. However, the grit can also scrub away tooth enamel. An abrasive whitener might work well at first. Your teeth may look whiter because the stains are being removed, but, eventually, your teeth might start to look yellow or gray, and no amount of brushing can whiten them. Nor will other whiteners be effective because you have removed too much tooth enamel, and the color you’re seeing is the yellowish or other off-color dentin underneath. If that’s the case, it’s time to talk to a cosmetic dentist.
Some teeth whitening systems are easy to use. But others–especially those trying to mimic the techniques and technology of professional whitening–are not so easy to use. If you use a whitener improperly, it may not work, and it may even damage your teeth. If you have a complex teeth whitening system that you can’t get to work, take time to read the directions again. Then try it one more time, carefully following the directions.
If you can’t get it to work, you might try a different system or get professional teeth whitening, but don’t keep using a treatment that isn’t working.
Poorly Fitting Tray and Strips
Teeth whitening systems have to deliver the whitening compound to your teeth somehow. One common approach is to use whitening trays or strips, which may not deliver whitener to your teeth, or it might deliver it unevenly.
Whitening trays may come premade, and these may not fit your teeth at all. This means that the whitener will only reach some parts of your teeth, and it will quickly be diluted by saliva, so you’ll see little or no whitening. Even if the system comes with a boil-and-bite tray, the fit may not be good enough to ensure effective, uniform whitening.
Whitening strips are even harder to use. You have to try to press the strips up against your teeth. If you don’t get it to touch precisely, you’ll end up with uneven whitening. And even if you do your best, it’s typical to have areas at the edges of teeth that don’t whiten enough.
Not Strong Enough
On the other hand, you may be doing everything right for your teeth whitener, but the whitener itself is the problem. OTC whiteners are limited in strength. This is supposed to help you avoid injuring your teeth or gums. But it also limits the amount of whitening these treatments can achieve.
Your stains may be so dense and deeply embedded that OTC whiteners just can’t remove them.
Wrong Type of Discoloration
The truth of the matter is that not all teeth are stained for the same reason. Most teeth are stained because of dark foods and beverages. Teeth whitening works very well on these stains. But discoloration can also come from within the tooth. This may be related to enamel defects, tooth injury, enamel erosion, or other causes.
If your tooth doesn’t respond to OTC tooth whitening, don’t just keep doing it. Instead, check with a dentist to find out what’s causing your tooth discoloration.
Professional Whitening Works
We understand that you might want to try OTC whiteners because they seem simple and inexpensive. And they can be–when they work. But for many people, these systems are actually a waste of time and money. Trying one whitening system after another is inconvenient and costly.
The best way to make sure your teeth whiten properly is to work with a professional. This is the true bargain: getting safe, effective teeth whitening the first time.
We can even help if your teeth won’t respond to traditional whitening at all. Treatments like porcelain veneers or dental crowns can cover discolored teeth with a bright white surface.